The Honest Truth about the Body
In physical therapy school, I spent a lot of time in a sports bra. Sometime during the first week, the professor had us all line up in two rows facing each other, shoulder to shoulder, and analyze the person across from us. It felt awkward, and yet it was a good training tool. The body reveals a story. Little details about body function and design can’t be revealed through clothing. And we had to get comfortable treating the human body. We had to get over our awkwardness in having our body viewed, so we could then view another body in that same light. That day helped us get over ourselves in having to take off our shirts often so that others could learn about the body. We, as students, were always learning from treating and examining each other’s bodies before we could do so on real live patients.
I hadn’t thought about that day for a long time – it’s been almost 16 years since I started PT school fresh out of undergrad. But my history of body shame and obsession goes much further back to childhood. I’m not going to repeat my story today, but instead, I’d like to take a few minutes with you to uncover some understanding about the body as God’s design. I won’t even attempt to understand the mind of the Father, but there are a few things that I dare to try and understand as His scripture reveals. So let’s start from the beginning.
What is a Body?
- It’s a vessel that houses the Spirit of the Living God
- It’s a tool used to serve those around us.
- It’s wonderfully created in the image of the Father
- It has a history, a story, a uniqueness no one else can copy.
- It’s an incredible, highly detailed, truly miraculous piece of art made up of bone, muscle, cartilage, connective tissue, organs, nerve endings, blood vessels, adipose tissue, and flesh.
I will not neglect it, worship it, shame it, idolize it, alter it to be something it was never created to be, demand perfection, push it until it breaks, think about it all day long, or compare it to someone else’s vessel.
We carry a lot of thoughts about our bodies; about others’ bodies. The Enemy of our soul has issued an attack on the body from the beginning of time. The body was the first to carry shame as it was quickly hidden after Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened.
I’ve swung on the pendulum so many times, more so on the side of idolizing than neglecting, but idolizing can look like obsessing, shaming, as well as pride. Even if we hate our bodies but we think about it all day long, that’s still making it an object of worship. Have you thought about that before? Anything we prioritize our thoughts on over God is an idol. We can worship something and hate it at the same time.
God continues to heal my heart over this body. I’ll never get it perfect 100% of the time. I think I’ll always fall into the camp of overthinking as I work in a world that is always focused on the external shell.
But God has healed my heart to the point where I don’t think a lot about the appearance of the physical body other than from an observation standpoint. I’m not typically a sports bra picture girl, but often that was because I wanted to hide my body. I disliked my abdomen – the softness that carried 5 babies and the stretch marks that came to accommodate them as they grew inside me. Even though I KNEW better than to idolize a six-pack, and I could PROCLAIM my body GOOD, and be THANKFUL for all it has done, I still thought that I needed to hide my stomach b/c it didn’t meet the world’s standards.
But here is what God revealed to me – if we’re only willing to show a perfect body, and 90% of us don’t have “perfect” bodies, then we will all continue to think that perfection looks like six-pack abs.
I see so many women who hold body shame. And basically every woman I see, I need to see her body – her abdomen – her stomach, so I can check if she has a diastasis, see how her core muscles are engaging, and how she handles pressure during various exercises. I’d prefer to see her move and exercise in a sports bra because seeing her body and how it moves, how it handles pressure, etc. helps me guide and teach her more accurately.
In the same way, I’ve always hesitated to post anything in my own sports bra because:
- I didn’t think my body was “good enough” to appear that way on camera
- I held a level of pride over modesty
- Because of this pride, in my head I would shame those who did post sports bra or swimsuit pictures – even if they were perfectly modest (is the abdomen sexy? Is the abdomen inappropriate? I suppose it’s up to the person who is watching). In my case, if I need to teach something about the body, it might be more helpful/necessary to show an abdomen to make the point more clear.
From a professional standpoint, a body is just a body. I’m not trying to reduce it from God’s intended design and function, but a body is just a body – not to be worshipped, not to be shamed. It’s a tool, and when I can see the tool, it gives me information about how it functions.
As I processed with the Father my ideas of modesty, I realized that most of my thoughts came from my own shame, and I projected that onto others. I was envious of others’ flat abdomens, so I thought they were inappropriate for showing theirs. I shamed them in my head, judged them, when, regardless of their motivations, the sin was mine.
As Christians we can be so harmful in our judgments…so callous when we are offended, rather than assuming the best even when we don’t know…looking for gold even when what we see appears as otherwise.
Friend – it’s been 2+ years of working on healing my heart over my body shame. I know the work isn’t done, but God has done a mighty work and I trust Him to continue to do so. If you struggle with both obsessing or neglecting, if you think about your body all day long (whether if it’s with pride or shame), I pray that I can offer you hope. GOD CARES about your body and your view of it. GOD CARES about your shame and your obsession. GOD CARES because He’s a Restorer and a Redeemer and don’t you think that He wants to reveal to you His heart behind your own body? Don’t you think the Creator of the masterpiece wants to reveal His heart behind all His work? I picture an Artist, proudly displaying His latest creation and explaining the inspiration behind it. The art only has incredible meaning when we understand the artist’s thoughts and feelings behind what they created.
I have a particular artist that I love – she’s a believer and has an incredible story, though also filled with tragedy and hardship. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to her – because rather than hide or pretend that everything is ok, she shows her deep need for a Savior and her worship of a God who provides for His children even though our lives will include suffering and hardship. I love perusing her art online and have purchased several pieces for my work and our VRBO cottage. But when I see a piece I love, do you know what I do? I go to the “description” underneath the piece b/c I want to learn more about it. I want to see why she created it, what the thoughts and feelings are BEHIND the piece. That to me makes the art priceless and beautiful…not just the piece itself.
Get to know the Artist. Get to know the One who carefully crafted your every detail. Get to know the One who knitted you in your mother’s womb – fearfully and wonderfully. Ask Him to replace the lies you’ve believed with HIS truth because the lies cannot stand where Truth reigns. You, Daughter – regardless of pant size, regardless of what number the scale says, regardless of BMI or body fat percentage, regardless of what your body looks like naked –
It’s a good body.
It’s a good creation.
It’s a masterpiece.
It’s an amazing design.
You’ve bought a lie that a body is only good with six-pack abs and size 2 jeans. But it’s just a lie. Your body is GOOD just as it is – right now. That doesn’t give us a reason to neglect, it gives us a reason to respect the vessel and WORSHIP the Artist. He’s WORTHY of our praise.