Today as I sat down to grade I switched on Pandora like I usually do. Some chords I’ve heard so many times they’ve become as familiar as friends. I’ve heard this song a hundred times, but one of the chords stuck me deep for the first time: “In these bodies we will live. in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
I’ve always been aware of my body. My parents put me in dance class when I was young and already then the thief of comparison began whittling away my fragile self-image. “Why don’t I look like those other girls, mom?” I stole furtive glances of myself in the mirror while we warmed up on the barre: there were the svelte, willowy girls, and then there was me– in a black leotard with her tights unsightly bulging out of the bottom. Later that year on the school bus a boy called me “thunder thighs” and asked that I not sit on his side for fear of tipping over the bus. Once, the school nurse was giving us vaccinations when she said to me, “It’s a good thing you’ve got a nice, thermal arm. The other girls in your class are so skinny. This is going to hurt them a lot more than it hurts you.” Hah– if only she knew the true weight of her words. Throughout my formative years, slowly–deadly–the whittler worked– repeatedly cutting away small pieces of my self-esteem– nonchalantly tossing the carvings on the cutting room floor. Eventually I lost my “baby weight” as so many called it, only to gain and lose and gain and lose again. Slim fast, I tried it. Diet pills– sadly– I tried them. Bulimia– yes. Exercise– for the most part, yes. This– my 20 year old battle.
Do I love my body?
No. Not as I should.
There is a lot of talk about bodies these days. Magazine headlines dominate, “Best Ways to Lose Weight.” “How to Get Fit in 30 Minutes a Day.” “My Diet is Better than Yours.” Facebook informed me this morning that, for the first time ever, a plus-sized model will grace Sports Illustrated’s cover.
Maybe that’s why that song struck me this morning.
“In this body I will live”: the Bible says my body is a temple– a vessel for God to work in and through. My body is a gift, a home for my soul– but one bought at a great price,– a great sacrifice that requires emulation: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” While the world tells me my body is mine: I can do as I choose with it, Christ reminds me that He gave His body for us, atoning for our sins, allowing us to attain life eternal. Our bodies are linked to His as the Potter is to his creation. Likewise, we sacrifice our bodies for those we love. Mothers sacrifice their bodies to give life to their children. Though I am not yet a mother, I understand from my friends and family that parenthood is often synonymous with fatigue– not that it is without reward. Sometimes I teach three-year-olds, and on those days, my body is spent after three hours of kneeling, crouching, lifting, and running– all acts of service and love. My husband, a first responder, daily exhausts his body not only to provide for me but to serve strangers. We tell of our love with our words, but we show our love with our bodies. Our very flesh can be love. I heard once: “God created my body. Jesus died for it. I should take care of it.” We can take better care of ourselves to take better care of others, but perhaps we need to take better care of our perceptions, first.
“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” Maybe it’s time for a better perspective after all of these years.
Citation: “Awake my Soul.” Sigh No More, Mumford and Sons. 2009.