Day 8: Safe in your own skin.
Henri, Bring Your Body Home:
You have never felt completely safe in your body. But God wants to love you in all that you are, spirit and body. Increasingly, you have come to see your body as an enemy that has to be conquered. But God wants you to befriend your body so that it can be made ready for the Resurrection. When you do not fully own your body, you cannot claim it for an everlasting life.
How then do you bring your body home? By letting it participate in your deepest desire to receive and offer love. Your body needs to be held and to hold, to be touched and to touch. None of these needs is to be despised, denied, and repressed. But you have to keep searching for your body’s deeper need, the need for genuine love. Every time you are able to go beyond the body’s superficial desires for love, you are bringing your body home and moving toward integration and unity.
In Jesus, God took on human flesh. The Spirit of God overshadowed Mary, and in her all enmity between spirit and body was overcome. Thus God’s Spirit was united with the human spirit, and the human body became the temple destined to be lifted up into the intimacy of God through the Resurrection. Every human body has been given a new hope, of belonging eternally to the God who created it. Thanks to the Incarnation, you can bring your body home.
Mary, blessed mother and bold courageous daughter, at the center of Incarnation as your body and your love bring Jesus into this world – I wish your body was revered as much as the body of those on billboards and on film and in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. I wish my family of Protestants would embrace you as much as we embrace the lie that we are not beautiful enough.
Henri Nouwen – I wish you were the cover feature of Cosmopolitan, a special guest writer in Seventeen Magazine, Vogue’s premiere photoshoot, or perhaps even Maxim’s most refreshing centerfold. (Ha!)
I wish every young girl could read your wisdom. I wish you could speak a blessing on every Christian woman who has been taught to reject her body for the ‘unholy’ things it desires, and on every prostitute that walks down my street who has been taught to become numb to the superficiality, and forget that underneath all that exploitation she is a temple that is home to that new hope.
You have never felt safe in your own body.
I cannot speak for all humanity’s experience, but I do know this sentiment rings true for so many women… bombarded with images of what you should or should not look like, feel like, smell like, act like… who spend so much time investing into transforming our bodies into someone else’s body. We are told to be anti-age, to cover up our flaws, to flatter our bodies with manipulation and Spanx.
Growing up in this Christian American subculture, we learn that the body, and matters of the body, really don’t matter.
We learn that ‘modest is hottest,’ and any attempt to feel good about your body might as well take a back seat. A very far back seat, in the 15-passenger van of priorities. (Just ask my outfit the first day of high school. Overall shorts were never a good idea.)
We learn that it is rare (maybe even impossible) to be both beautiful and smart, or beautiful and kind, or beautiful and godly, or beautiful and NOT boy-crazy, or beautiful and good.
We learn that it is wrong to be both Christian and a sensual, sexual woman.
Let us not forget that for all her reverence, the distinguishing characteristic of Mary is her pregnancy – the very manifested fruit of sexuality.
The lie is in needing to choose to believe one of the elements over and against the other, so we grow up believing that it’s not too important to feel beautiful. And perhaps if we do someday recognize this need to feel beautiful, it betrays a secret superficiality that must mean we are not “Christian” enough to overcome such an earthly trivial desire.
The lie is that we fool ourselves into thinking we’ll never need that affirmation of our bodies as beautiful, if we just believe hard enough that our spirits are beautiful. That being dualistic will get us through.
Oh, is this a lie.
Incarnation, please reconcile us with our bodies.