On This Holy Battleground: My Body Safe & Sound

 
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Our bodies, which we so often treat as our enemy or separate from who we are, are created fearfully and wonderfully. They are made so perfectly that God himself calls them temples within which he resides. 

Our bodies are sacred, and they are also science — perfect science — designed to have everything we need to thrive and to heal.

The more I learn about how the body is created to manage and restore itself, the more in awe of God I become. I become more aware of the completeness of his redemption.

How often I have been willfully disembodied in this life; how often I have acted as if it were “other” or not enough. I say I believe I’m made for a purpose,  yet easily, selectively discount this miraculous form as part of that clause. 

I don’t think I’m the only one. 

It’s not our fault entirely — how freely do we talk about these things, how accurately were any of us taught about how incredible we truly are? I remember cold white tiles and being ushered among other girls to a room separate from the boys in fifth grade. I remember plastic packages of tampons and pads. I remember how excruciatingly embarrassing the whole thing was and nothing of what was said. 

I know this: it did not leave me feeling proud of my body.

I was not told of how fearfully and wonderfully it was made, I was not empowered to nourish it, love it, honor its capabilities or even treat them like they were more than a nuisance, something to hide. No one told me its processes, fertility-related and otherwise, were proof enough of an all-knowing, all-loving Lord.

My years of young adulthood were filled with conversations of disdain for my body — complaints about periods, grumbles, and curses under my breath about hormones and how “crazy” I was. Like all my girlfriends at the time, I took the pill in college. I bought into its promises and the lie that it gave independence and empowerment — not realizing that independence came at the cost of suppressing exactly what my body was made to do. 

The fallout was tragic: the depression and anxiety to which I was prone pushed to the brink, I did not recognize who I was. It took at least a year for my body to settle back into a regular rhythm — and even longer for me to understand I was not the person the pill made me to be. 

And sure, I also loved my body, in a sense. As a dancer I felt near to it, appreciated what it could do for me. I felt at home nowhere else as much as I did in my own skin, lying on the floor of the university studios. I had seen it do incredible feats. The first time I felt God was while dancing. 

Yet I also saw what it could not do — the affection it could not earn me, the attention from men I did not want, the unwelcome groping of college fraternity brothers and the pain of depression, physically felt. 

I performed for affection and approval — but the eventual rejection of men or failure to impress my teachers, my own inability to force my body to be better, be stronger than the other girls in class… it gave me reason to hate my body. 

It was a tool I used to earn what I wanted and when it failed, I had no compassion. I saw my body as separate than myself, something less holy and less deserving of value or reverence. I poisoned it with toxic thought and toxic drink — willfully vacating the very sacred temple I was given for refuge. 

Isn’t that a struggle we all have, sometimes? We don’t see our bodies as a part of ourselves. We work to separate our identity from our physical form in the name of being politically correct, or from fear that we teach any woman her only value lies in her physical appearance. 

To avoid one extreme, we’ve swung to the other: don’t talk about the body because we don’t want to emphasize it.

We’re not completely sure how to validate the human form without also having to reckon with conversations about lust or sex. Sometimes, our bodies have brought us pain and humiliation from assault or other traumatizing experiences. We’re not sure how to handle the trauma without being swallowed, so we avoid it and disconnect. I did this for years. 

We’re not sure how to affirm women’s whole selves, so we emphasize their spirit selves, tolerate their emotional selves, and leave young women alone with their bodies behind closed doors to navigate extremely vulnerable and confusing experiences. We don’t teach each other how to love our bodies — we teach one another tolerance and silence. 

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We deserve so much better than tolerance and silence.

God doesn’t merely tolerate us and he isn’t silent. We’re comfortable with our hearts or eternal spirits being redeemed — but our bodies? We barely speak of it. 

I believe that when Jesus died for me, he died for all of me. God isn’t a halfway-God. If the bible says Jesus took all sin and disease with Him to the grave, I have to believe God’s redemption in my life includes my physical body. I’m a new creation — not just in mind, heart, and spirit, but in my body, too. 

As a result, there are so many ways we learn to dehumanize our bodies — even when we have learned to conquer the emotional or spiritual demons within. If our bodies are redeemed as much as our spirits are, we are free to interact with them and view them differently. We can interact and view them like God does, with a lens of love, grace, and delight. 

What would it look like for you to revere with honor the body you were given?

Or to delight in what it can do, as you might when watching a baby discovering their toes or learning to walk? What if my body wasn’t my enemy, but something more like a dear friend? 

What would happen if I remembered the care and delight with which God bent over my small frame at birth to whisper his love and affection, that he is enamored with me, every tiny part? How easily did I forget the care of my mother, younger than I am now, enamored and holding tight her small daughters, the joy that she took in kissing our skin, holding our small hands, how she has spent her life covering me proclamations that I am beautiful and strong? She believed it — but can I?

My body, after all, has been with me through it all. 

It has beared the brunt of my poor decisions and being used to perform for acceptance. Faithfully it has renewed itself down to the cellular level every seven years. When I wanted to run, it ran — when I wanted to be revived in the ocean, it swam. When I needed to be loved, it surrendered to the arms of the Father — when I needed to know I was alive, it danced. 

My body — this body, imperfect and aging and completely redeemed — has been faithful. 

It’s a battleground with scars to prove it — every setback or victory I’ve ever experienced has happened on this sacred land. My life has changed drastically over the last 31 years — but what has remained? Me and the Lord — and this refuge he gave me to heal within. 

It has taken me on adventures halfway around the world; it has given me the joy of creative expression and healing through moving. It’s a holy place of intimacy and affection and teaches me what true covenant can be. It works like clockwork, it’s perfect — its heart beats, its lungs breathe, its skin renews, it digests and detoxifies and dynamically changes every month in ways that allows for human life to grow within me — 

And this is insane! This is impossible, this is something beyond what I could ever conceive or believe but it’s how he made us. Perfectly. 

You and I, we are perfect. We are all miracles, but we don’t see it. 

I am a miracle — I want to see it. 

Maybe this begins with choosing, at the start of each day at the moment my awareness comes and I can feel this body resting between these gentle sheets: Oh, I will love you today. I will see you for what you are and not for what you can give me, I will celebrate you and make within you a home — just like God himself has done. 

And when I rise and knees crack or wrinkles appear in the mirror before me; when I move but the muscles aren’t as strong as before or I dance in worship and I can’t match what I feel inside of me — I won’t judge her. I will ask God, instead: how do you see me? How do you see this body? And when the affection and approval comes, I won’t reject it — if words fail and heart falters, I’ll open my hands in the silence to receive it and trust that like all things — even here, this battleground of scars and painful histories, even this — he has redeemed. 

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Content like this will be a part of a new section on Liberté, Bodies -- a place to be encouraged on the exploration of intimacy and identity, lived out in our sacred bodies.

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