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Body Image: A Hopelessly Broken Vessel

By July 9, 20126 Comments

As you can probably tell from the several posts I have now devoted to the topic, pregnancy weight gain has been one of the more, um, challenging aspects of pregnancy for me. I haven’t loved it, although God has used it to teach me a lot about myself and my faith.

While I continue to process my struggle with bodily change, I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah. In case you need a refresher, Jeremiah is a young prophet who shares terrible news with the Israelites: God has grown tired of their disobedience, and He has decided to punish them.

The opening chapters of Jeremiah are pretty intense as God catalogs the many ways His people have forsaken Him. The people clamor for forgiveness, but God points out that, in spite of their seeming repentance, they continue in their rebellion. They have become a hard-hearted people, so God sends a wake-up call.

The list of vices is long and sometimes overwhelming. It’s tough to keep track of the many ways God’s people betrayed Him, and it is a real picture of human depravity. Yet despite the mind-numbing length of the people’s sins, there was one that stood out to me this week. Jeremiah 2:13 says,

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

This verse was not new to me. I have read it many times before, but last week the timing was providential. In the same way that the Israelites turned their affections from God and invested themselves in feeble saviors– “broken cisterns that cannot hold water” –I realized that I have been doing the same. Prior to this pregnancy, I had been storing the waters of my security in a fractured cistern of body image, and it simply would not hold.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether our chosen cisterns are broken. A bucket with a narrow crack in the side will still hold water. The leak is small enough that one can store water inside without noticing its steady depletion.

And yet the depletion is steady. A compromised vessel will never be totally full. No matter how much water you put inside it, you must keep adding more and more. Until eventually, in your exhaustion and fear, you realize that your cistern is a broken one.

For me, body image is a broken cistern in which I have steadily poured the waters of my self-confidence for years. Now, with fresh eyes, I see the brokenness of this cistern.

For others, their broken cistern might be finances. They have never experienced true financial struggle, so they operate under the illusion that their money is not an idol. In reality, the nature of their attachment has never been truly tested, and the attachment is iron-clad.

For others, their broken cistern is their reputation. As long as they can maintain an image of ideal Christianity, motherhood, or marriage, they will keep putting water in that ruptured vessel.

There are any number of faulty cisterns out there, and I rely on more than one. God is teaching me about body image right now, but I am certain there are many other broken cisterns into which I pour my security.

So today I encourage you to reflect on the broken cisterns in your life. Where do you store up your confidence, and is that place of storage trustworthy? Or is it a broken vessel that requires constant attention, steady refilling, and will only lead to disappointment? As Jeremiah 2 reminds us, there is only One vessel capable of holding the living waters of our souls, and it is a vessel not made with human hands.


  • Shane says:

    Great insight into that text! Praise God for revealing that to you and to your readers. You spoke to me. Thank you.

  • Louise says:

    Great analogy! It’s so true that there are things in my life which I don’t imagine to be idols, yet my dependency on them hasn’t been tested so they probably are.

  • Sophie says:

    I have been following your blog for several months now, and always enjoy your writing style and the topics you’ve covered. This look into Jeremiah has stayed with me the last several days and the Lord is definitely using this passage in a trying season of stretching and growing in my life. I thank God for your ministry – it is well-timed. This is also one of the few blogs I can stand to read the comments! So I want to let you know that I appreciate you and the community of your readers. Such a blessing altogether 🙂

  • Sharon says:

    Sophie, thank you so much for sharing that with me. Your words blessed me today! And what a great point you make about the comments on my blog–I have felt very fortunate to have been graced with thoughtful and respectful commenters!

  • trisha says:

    Very good! Several years ago God showed me I had spent more time and effort in losing 50 pounds the past 3 decades that I had on anything in His Kingdom. That was serious repentance on my part. It is hard to think about diets, converstaions, wishing I was thin, exercising, not exercising, feeling guilty for eating, so much emotional energy. I am still 50 pounds overweight. I do not diet anymore but I do struggle with guilt and feelings of failure. It is my broken cistern (and it is for many others).

  • Allison says:

    Sharon, this is the first of your articles I’ve read, and I will be reading more 🙂 I find it very interesting…you are the last person I would ever have imagined to struggle with body image, because you’ve always been so tiny (even pregnant, you look like you’ve only gained about 10 pounds!) Wonderfully fresh interpretation of Jeremiah 2:13! It’s nice to know that even those people that seem to have perfect bodies are not above body image issues (not that I relish your struggles, but that I can certainly relate to them). Keep the articles coming! 🙂

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