Posts Tagged 'God'

Trailer-park temple

In my absence from this blog, I’ve been reading and thinking and learning. Were you aware of the Health at Every Size movement? That there’s a whole community of interneters working for fat acceptance? That there are people who are actually standing up and saying, Yes, I *am* overweight, and I am also healthy and I love my body, so what of it?

This boggles me. Blows my mind. It never even *occurred* to me that there would be fat people out there — people my own size — who are not ashamed to be who they are, who aren’t hiding their bodies under layers and layers of bulky clothes, who are not just accepting of their bodies but *proud* of them, who love themselves.

And slowly, I’m becoming one of those people, too.

I wear a size 24. I have dieted and dieted for months and years at a time, I have lost and gained, and inevitably, this is the size I keep coming back to. What’s that cliche about the definition of insanity? I’m beginning to make peace with the notion that I am never going to be physically perfect — not by some arbitrary, external definition, anyway — but I am going to stop making myself insane trying to measure up — or measure down — to someone else’s ideal me.

I’m going to love and nurture and celebrate my body, not abuse and deprive it. I would never withhold food or affection or sleep from one of my children — I give them healthy food, plenty of it, and treats every now and then in moderation. I give them plenty of opportunities for fun exercise. I make sure they get plenty of sleep. I defend them when other people say cruel things to them, and I do not allow them to say cruel things about others; I teach them to treat people with dignity. I love them and snuggle them and tell them how special and wonderful they are to me, how God made them to be perfectly them.

And I am going to love myself the same way. I am God’s child, and He expects me to treat my body with healthy love, not unhealthy abuse. So I’m going to love me, all of me.

***

Just because I can write all of this, of course, doesn’t mean I really believe it yet. But I’m getting there. I’m working on being more mindful of what I eat, of making sure I’m getting healthy fruits and vegetables and just the occasional bit of chocolate, of paying attention to how different foods make me feel. Not bingeing, and also not denying myself when I’m hungry and my body needs fuel. I’m exercising, going to the campus gym several times a week to walk the track and listen to my iPod. Once I overcame fear of being a fat old(er) woman in a university gym full of thin perky 18-year-olds (a serious exercise in systematic desensitization), I’ve actually been enjoying it. I feel better when I’ve exercised, stronger, more energetic. I sleep better. It’s a surprising feeling, this exercising-to-feel-better instead of exercising-to-get-thin.

So I’m getting there.

I’m working hard at remembering all of this, controlling what I’m putting in, seeking out writers who are uplifting and positive about body and size and self-esteem. There seems to be an absence of Christian voices on this topic, though; I’ve only found one so far, and what I’m missing is the company of other writers who are writing about body-love from a Christian perspective.

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We’re not very good at love, we Christians. Most of the time, we’re better at judgment – towards others and towards ourselves. And when it comes to body image, we pretty much fall back on two verses: the bit about gluttony, and “Your body is a temple.” And we all know there are certain things that are off limits for our temples: drinking, smoking, premarital sex, and being fat.

I was hung up on the body-as-temple image for a while. If I’m remembering right from all my years of Bible classes and Sunday schools, Solomon built a pretty freaking amazing temple to honor God — all gold and jewels and fancy statues, opulent and expensive, a place worthy of communing with the Most High God. If that temple were a human body, it would be Angelina Jolie. Is that what God wants from me? Because I can never live up to that. My body-temple is more of a shack, with shag carpets and crummy wood paneling. My body-temple belongs in a trailer park, not a palace.

But then. It’s not saying I’m supposed to build this temple of my body — it’s already built. I had no control over the construction, the materials, the workmanship. I have to trust that God built this temple of mine exactly to the specifications He wanted, out of exactly the materials He wanted, fearfully and wonderfully. I’m not the architect here — it’s just my job to keep the carpets vacuumed and the furniture dusted, to light the incense and burn the candles, to make this temple welcoming and warm, a fitting place to honor God. To nurture and love and care for this temple, not take a sledgehammer to the walls and try to make it something else.

***

So that’s a very lengthy summary of what I’ve been thinking about lately. What about you?

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Well hello, there.

I haven’t written in five months. FIVE. MONTHS. I don’t really have an excuse for this. I mean of course I do, I have a lot of excuses: I could tell you all about the time Peter climbed onto the dining table and poured a full cup of coffee into my laptop, that’s a good story, it ends with Aaron taking my laptop apart piece by painstaking piece and cleaning every single one and then gently putting them back, and the laptop working again but not before Aaron had turned several shades of purple and said a number of words that I’ve cautioned the children not to repeat. Or I could tell you about how after a few months of coasting through therapy (there are bound to be a few months of those after seeing her twice a month for three years, but there’s still a surprising amount of Work to be done; apparently I am quite the screwed-up individual, still able to find damaged bits of self to examine and fix up even after all this time; or perhaps it’s not that I’m that unhealthy, but that I’m just terribly bad at therapy) anyway after a few months of coasting through therapy on easier topics like how to strike up casual conversation with the other parents at my son’s preschool, I am back to being neckdeep into hard things like my body image and relationship with food and my father’s addiction and whether it’s possible to be unconditionally loved — and in fact I do plan to write about all of these things here, soon, but we all know about my track record for following through on things I plan to write about, so don’t hold your breath is what I’m saying. The truth is that I could have made time to write, even with snowbound kids to entertain and scrapbook pages to lay out and groceries to buy and books to read and all of life happening around me – I could have made time to write, but I just didn’t feel like it.

But I’m back! So, hi there. I do have so many things I want to say, things about therapy and about the guest post I’m writing next week for a friend’s blog and about how much I really enjoy my kids even after a long winter with not enough playing outside. But as I have been thinking about all these things I’ve realized there is a more foundational post I need to write before I can adequately explain everything else that I want to say, so here goes:

I am a Christian.

It’s a bit telling that I have to take a deep breath before I can write that sentence, isn’t it? The fact is I’m extremely conscious of how “Christian” is usually defined and so I normally identify myself as one only when I have ample space to do a lot of qualifying about exactly what kind of Christian I am, and so it’s much easier just to not bring it up. There are so many assumptions about what Christians are that just don’t apply to me – I don’t vote the way most Christians are said to vote, I don’t think making it legal for same-sex couples to ride tandem bicycles makes it any less special when my husband and I ride a tandem bicycle together, I don’t think Haiti or the poor or the uneducated or the uninsured are asking for it. I don’t have an opinion on how others should live their life, nor do I wish to have one. I don’t have the energy for that.

No, these days most of my energy is tied up in trying to get a handle on the unconditional love of God, grappling with the truth that because of Christ, God loves me completely, limitlessly, despite how I eat or how I vote or how I parent my children or how I feel about other people. God loves me. And with the understanding that Christ covered every possible thing I could ever do, I’m free to live my life without worrying that anything I do can make me attain, or fail to attain, God’s love. I’m free to let the Holy Spirit (yes I said Holy Spirit and it’s such a churchy thing to say I know but there, I’m saying it) direct my life and my actions – and do the same work in everyone else’s life, too, without it being a reflection on me. After a religious upbringing that emphasized being “right with God” — that unless you’re “right with God,” you have no platform for asking Him for help, or guidance, or just experiencing His love, so until you can find a way to get right, you’re trapped in an endless loop of not measuring up to His standards for rightness, but not being able to ask Him for help to get there — after this upbringing, it’s incredibly freeing to know that no matter what I might do that changes my relationship with God, His relationship with me will never change. He just loves me, unconditionally, limitlessly. And that’s amazing.

So I had to write this, to put it out here for the entire internet to see, because this is the foundational belief that colors everything else I am learning in therapy, colors how I feel about my children and my parents and my cellulite and my refrigerator. This is the truth that I am trying to just get, the one piece of myself that will make all the other pieces work. And I need you to know that I am a Christian because God loves me, not because I think He shouldn’t love anyone else.

And now I can write all the other things I want to say.


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