What does this verse reveal about us, and about how we should view our bodies? When it says we are fearfully made, in other words, made in such a way as to inspire awe, does it not tell us something about our worth? We are a masterpiece created by the greatest artist there is. When it says we are wonderfully made, do we believe it? Do we believe we are wonderful? Perhaps, if we are talking on a scientific level, we can agree. The atoms, cells, DNA, complicated systems of circulation, digestion, nerves--it's all very impressive. It inspires awe. It is wonderful.
But don't think of it on a scientific level. Just explore your gut reaction. What emotion emits from you when you are told your body is wonderful? That it inspires awe? Or even more shocking, that it is a work of God, a great masterpiece? And it is only half of the equation, for we have not even explored the nature and beauty of your soul! But, sticking to the topic here, do you believe it? Do you think your body is good?
When I consider the relationship I have had with my body most of my life, I feel like it was almost absent. Like I was trying my hardest to pretend my body wasn't there. At a very young age, I took hold of the message that your body must remain covered in front of others and assigned it more meaning than it was meant to convey. I thought my body must remain covered because it was shameful. I avoided looking at myself. I covered myself at all times, except when it wasn't possible because I was bathing. I had no desire to run around stark naked with the sheer joy of being alive egging me forward, as many toddlers and young children do. My mother told me once that from the time I was four, I wouldn't let anyone in the bathroom with me, ever. She never said my body was shameful, and neither had anyone else. The people around me were only trying to instill modesty and propriety. But in my little head, I had added on meaning where there wasn't any, and it messed with my life for years to come.
After I was married, I began to explore the concept of my body maybe not being my enemy. I talked with my husband a lot about the topic, and he informed me that my thinking was twisted. That my body was beautiful, that I should not be ashamed of it. It was hard to believe him. I was hard-wired to believe otherwise.
Another big step out from under the lie happened from observing my children. I have four, and not one of them skipped the stage I described earlier. They equated a lack of clothing with freedom! Their little faces were full of mischief and bliss if they could escape my grasp after they bathed and take off across the house. Watching them, something inside me began to heal. I could tell, deep down in my soul, that they were right. Their bodies were wonderful, beautiful, and meant to be celebrated. And that meant mine was, too.
Our bodies are a gift. Consider this well-known verse in a new light: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" Mat 22:39. Do you think that Jesus meant we should not love our neighbors all that much, just a little? No, we understand we are to love them profoundly--unconditionally. Jesus calls us even to love our enemies. He loved us without reservation, and that's how He wants us to behave towards our neighbors.
But don't forget the second part: as yourself. Jesus assumes that His listeners have a profound love for themselves. And He doesn't declare that conceit or self-centeredness. He points to it as an example of how we should love others. A normal love for self, from God's point of view, is a profound and unconditional one. But that's not how we treat ourselves, is it?
Imagine for a moment that we started treating our neighbor as we actually treat ourselves. If our neighbor told us they were hungry, we would tell them to skip a meal, because they had more important things to do. If they told us they were full, we would keep stuffing food down their throats because it tastes good. If they said they were exhausted, we would hand them a cup of coffee and yet another task. If they said they were sad, we would tell them that wasn't important and we didn't have time to think about it, so take this pill and call us in the morning.
The continual message that many of us send to our bodies is that they are unimportant, flawed, ugly, fat, shameful, dirty, you name it. When we look at ourselves, we focus on the flaws. Too many zits. Too many stretch marks. Ears that are too big, feet that are too big, a nose that's too big. Too top heavy, too bottom heavy. Broken, and needing to be fixed.
But what does a tender, loving relationship with our bodies look like? I'll tell you next time, because my body says it's tired. Time for bed.