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 God’s redemption and wisdom.
I’ve realized how often I have been willfully disembodied — disconnected from the truth of this — and I don’t think I am the only one.
The most education I ever received about my body was in 5th grade when they separated the boys from the girls and gave us free samples, and everyone felt embarrassed. I don’t remember anyone telling me how perfect my body was, or reassuring me that it was not only normal, but miraculous. No one told me its processes, fertility-related and otherwise, were proof enough of an all-knowing, all-loving Lord.
My young adult years 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. I took the pill in college, something everyone I knew was doing, too. The artificial hormones it released may have regulated my period, but it caused my moderate experience of depression and anxiety to fly off the charts. I don’t even recognize the person I was. At the time, I would’ve never connected my wild emotional fluctuations with the fact that I was using medication to manipulate what my body was created to do. My body was “me,” sure — in as much as I used it to get attention and affection, but it wasn’t a holy home I respected.
And now I wonder: if I saw my body as separate than myself, something less holy and less deserving of value or reverence, wasn’t I also vacating the temple? Willfully removing myself from the exact sacred space the Lord himself made for me to be safe within?
This is the common narrative for most women I know. We enjoy our bodies because we feel good working out or like how we look in a bikini. Or we despise our bodies because working out makes us feel ashamed and we would die if anyone saw us in a bikini. We want our husbands to find us sexy, but have a hard time feeling sexy because we’re afraid of what they think.
We may feel a lot of things about our bodies, but we don’t see our bodies as a part of ourselves. In fact, 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. Or, 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.
We’re not sure how to affirm women’s whole selves, so we emphasize their spirit selves, tolerate the 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.
We deserve so much better than tolerance and silence. God doesn’t tolerate us, and He isn’t silent. So why do we do that? As Christians, we are comfortable with our hearts or eternal spirits being redeemed by God — 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 am a new creation — not just in mind, heart, and spirit, but in my body, too.
If I make a mistake and hurt my husband, I don’t assume it’s because of my evil-sin-nature and evil-sin-brain. My life is not about me continuing to sin and begging God for forgiveness — my life is a constant growing experience with a good Father who gently helps me to become more and more, every day and in every situation, the person He calls me to be.
When I hurt others, I’m able to look at that behavior and know I am not evil or beyond hope. I know I am a good person, with a redeemed heart and mind. That I love my husband, and when I am most like me, I am kind, generous, and so-in-love with him.
When I remember I am a redeemed person, it makes it a lot easier to return to my husband, own my behavior, and apologize — because I know who I am. I know what God has done in my life. I can be kind to myself when I make mistakes without believing I am the mistake. I don’t divorce my heart because it has let me down or caused me to do something I regret — I repair, I let God help me to fix the root of the problem.
We don’t view bodies this same way. I’m able to navigate spiritual and relational issues because I am clear on who I am, based on what God has said. When it comes to my body, I tend not to apply the same principles.
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?
My body, after all, has been with me through it all. It has bared the brunt of my poor decisions, like drinking too much in college or being used to get attention or approval from others. Faithfully it has renewed itself down to the cellular level every seven years, and despite all of the sugar, alcohol, and coffee I’ve put into it, it plugs away, attempting to complete the functions its Creator made it to do.
For all of this: I’ve rewarded it with disdain, with anger. I’ve looked at it in disgust, poked at its soft spots, and blamed it for my lack of success or absence of affection. We are all miracles, but we don’t see it.
I’ve been learning how to respond to my body as a redeemed, holy temple, just like I do toward my spirit and heart. God’s redemption is whole; I don’t want to respond in part.
When I don’t feel well or experience PMS, I give it rest. When I need to sleep, I sleep. I drink more water, choose to move every day. I go to a chiropractor and every day as I complete the exercises he gave me to help correct my spine, I bless my body. For all the years I’ve spoken curses, I’m choosing to replace that deficit of honor with truth: my body is fearfully and wonderfully made.
I bless it to change, to be healthy. I speak it out, because if plants flourish from kind, spoken words, how much more will the ever-growing-cells of my body? I thank it for what it has done for me — because my body isn’t separate from who I am. It is part of me. And learning to love and bless my body is just another way of learning to love and bless myself — to see myself through the lens of redemption, honor, and love that God himself employs.