Recently, I've been looking over my almost 70 year-old body and taking inventory. Those of us of the female persuasion tend to look at our bodies through the ugly looking glass or the miserable magnifying glass. Those of my generation, that is. Starting way too early there is the body-shaming talk which so many girls unfortunately share: "Yeah, my nose is way too big." "YOUR nose? Look at this proboscis!" (We indulged in learned body-shaming talk...) "I hate my ass. I will always walk with it to the wall." "Ha, yours? What about this...." Substitute any physical part of your younger female self, disregarding it, dissing it, and creating a veritable fog of bodily misery.
Here's the later part of the story, when we hope some wisdom and grace seeps in through the cracks of brokenness in our younger selves. Seven years ago my right hip was totally replaced. It was time. Pain had taken over in a deeply disturbing way, and I was tired of hobbling about with a cane (fabulous me using a cane???), and popping Aleve like jelly beans. The night before surgery I had to first shower, then cleanse my body with special antibiotic wipes. As I was doing so I was flooded with a sudden feeling of gratitude, gratitude for my body which had taken me through the years: birthed two children, nursed my babies, walked many miles, enjoyed a thousand meals, and given me so much pleasure. "Thank you, God," I said. "Thank you for the gift of this body."
Why can't we do this more often? I don't know if men do this body-shaming stuff that women tend to do, looking in the mirror and tutting: "My comb-over is lame today. Man, that nose...maybe some cosmetic surgery? And the belly? Whoah!"
This is the body that God gave me. I am incarnational. The Holy Spirit dwells within me. If she likes what's here, why can't I love what is? I am going to try to be more forgiving, more loving of this corpus. When I slap my tummy, wishing it were smaller, I will take that shaming hand away and say, "Thanks, God, for a tummy that still works." When I look at the widening hips and thighs, I will stop myself and say, "Thanks, Mother God. I like these too." (I will desperately try not to add, most of the time.)
If anyone else spoke to us the way we talk to our bodies, we would kill them. Or at least maim them slightly. Or write a letter of complaint to the paper. We wouldn't tolerate it from others, so why do we accept it from ourselves?
Here are a few verses from my favorite of all the Psalms, #139:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
There's more, all of it lovely, just as we--creatures made by God--are lovely. And you--I tell you this from all the wisdom I've managed to garner over the years--are good down to the very marrow in your bones.