This is a contribution to Tara Owen’s Embracing the Body link up. Full disclosure, I got a complimentary copy of her amazing book. Real talk: I would have bought it and you probably need to buy it to. It is blowing my mind and I am not even done yet.
I have a weird relationship with my body. I know very few women who would describe their relationship with their body as whole and good. I think most women I know have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments, good parts and parts. But I also know that perhaps my relationship with my body is even more complicated than that.
At thirteen, when everyone hates their body, my body hated me back. A tangle of mono and anxiety morphed into a disease that would teach me not to trust my body. Or maybe more specifically to fight it. Either way my body was something to manage, to overcome, to ignore, to be frustrated with, but not really to live in.
Like the times I got to the end of speech tournaments only to find whole pieces missing in my brain. Or waking up the next morning and being unable to walk.
Like the times I smiled and told everyone everything was fine, but then collapsed on my couch unable to move for three days. That Senior skip day at the amusement park cost me three real days out.
Everything was calculated. It had to be. My favorite wedding picture is a product of me saying, “I need to sit down. Now. NOW!” My body only got my attention when it was in extreme stress. If I was going to pass out or throw up.
I’ve been healed for years, the doubters calling it mysterious remission. And I still find myself escaping to the space above my neck when things get hard. Too much stress, too much asking, too much exhaustion and I just don’t live in my body. I don’t even notice until someone I love tells me it has been all day and I haven’t touched them. Sometimes my husband, sometimes my girls.
I am amazed by the way my children inhabit their own bodies. They jump and squeal and give hugs with their whole beings. They tackle and fight and rage with their whole physical selves. They have strong preferences about what will and will not touch them. Juliet will not wear things that are itchy, even if they are beautiful and built for dress up play. Rilla likes all bottoms to rest at her hips. Even her tutus. They are hungry when they are hungry, and thirsty when they are thirsty and they want a hug, or a kiss, or to shove or kick something when they want it. Period. They inhabit all of themselves.
My girls don’t spend a lot of time assessing their bodies, deciding which parts they like, which parts they want to ignore. They run around in their underwear before bedtime and call it all good. The gangly legs, the rounded belly that disapears a little every day as the toddler grows into a child. Their bodies run and jump and bike and cuddle and they are good. Of course they are. This is something I never doubt either.
But can I extend that understanding to the body they came from, the body I have a more complicated relationship with?
It is Holy week, and I find myself thinking about the body of Christ. The actual physical body. Tara writes about how we believe that God was made flesh, but it is very hard to believe that flesh was made God. But both are true, they are if you believe the incarnation is true anyway. It is Holy week and I find myself thinking about the things my God did with his body, how He was bathed in perfume by a woman who was not even supposed to touch him, how he was betrayed with a kiss, how he washed the feet of his disciples and broke bread for them to eat together. I am thinking of the pictures of Jesus lounging with his disciples, his head in their lap. I am thinking of an embodied God.
A God made flesh experienced this world in a body, a body that was broken to save my world, but also my body. I am thinking about a redeemed body, about my own flesh already redeemed. I am wondering what it would look like to call my body good.