To bring physical health to the body, we must listen to its voice and understand its relationship with the other voices vying for our attention. The body has needs. It needs rest, it needs good food, it needs to move and be active. Our first job in falling in love with our bodies is to listen to and meet those needs.
When a baby is born, it has only one way to convey it's needs: by crying. At first, the mother and other caretakers may be confused as to what need is being expressed. But, because of their love and compassion for that child, because of their awareness of what a precious gift it is, they take special care in deciphering the cries. It does not even occur to them to do otherwise. Soon, they know what the baby will want next before it makes a single sound!
Our bodies are the same. As we first turn our awareness to them, and listen to what they are saying, we may not be able to decipher clearly the need. Sometimes, a want may be taken for a need, like when we crave sugar. But as we grow in understanding, we become able to anticipate and meet the needs efficiently. And an incredible thing begins to happen. We feel love and compassion in our physical self that starts to translate into a love for the whole self.
But we are not simply bodies. We are also minds, hearts, and souls. If you only listen to your body, and think that dieting and exercise alone will make you whole, you will find yourself unable to achieve it. How can we bring complete physical health to a body whose mental health or emotional health is broken?
Each of these aspects has its own voice and set of needs. Although we make clear distinctions between these "parts" of ourselves, the reality is much hazier. What we choose to think about affects our emotions, which in turn affects our physical health and the state of our souls. If we bury our emotions, block our thoughts, and ignore our souls, we end up with disease in our bodies. We cannot separate the elements which make us up. If you want physical health, you must go for whole-person health.
We also run into another problem, and that is our humanity. I heard said once, "Statistically speaking, three out of three people are broken." We are not perfect. Our souls are tarnished with the taint of sin, and that taint spreads to affect the whole self. And when we try to achieve whole-person health by relying on self-help books, yoga gurus, self-actualization classes and the like, we will never get there.
So how do we become whole?
The Great Physician himself, the one who commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves to begin with, preceded that command with an even more important one: "He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’" Luke 10:27a. Notice that the command includes every aspect of the self. When you love God with all you are, the healing begins. Listen to this verse from Mat 13:15:
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.
So what happens when we turn to God? He heals us. What happens when we don't? We cannot be healed. Through the sacrifice of his Son, he cleanses all souls who believe. And then, step by step through the work of his Spirit, he reclaims our whole health. With him, we can bring resolution and peace to the troubles of our past. We can bring trust in to replace our fear of the future. We can undo what sin has done to our now. As he burns away what is not us, he leaves behind what truly is us. Consider the story of Moses:
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Ex 3:1-6.)
But being on fire is a purifying experience. Our God, in his great love for us, works ceaselessly to grow us into Christlikeness. Consider these scriptures:
"And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image" 2 Cor 3:18b.
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns" Phil 1:6.
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him" Phil 2:13.
"It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life" Rom 8:11.
When we give him our whole self, we find that what we receive is a whole self in return: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it'" Mat 16:24-25. By being dedicated fully to him in love, his purpose is fulfilled in us: "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" Jn 10:10b. He delivers us from the reign of sin in every way:
- Mentally, so we can, "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" 2 Cor 10:5.
- Emotionally, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" Mat 11:28.
- Spiritually, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" John 8:36.
- Physically, "Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!" Prov 3:8. (MSG)
"Go, for your faith has healed you" Mark 10:52.