Thursday, October 11, 2012

Exquisite Beauty

Declaration 9:  The new creation that I am loves her body as an exquisite gift from her Heavenly Father, to be treated as the vessel for her greatest adventures, her grandest experiences, and her most resplendent worship.  She will care for her body, the temple for the Holy Spirit, as an expression of thankfulness for this gift. 

For beauty is defined by the Author,

and His creation is inherently beautiful.

In a culture so caught up in image, in false beauty, in narrower-than-the-gates-of-Heaven fitness ideals, this declaration smacks of vanity.  Either scope of the pendulous I-want-to-look-good-naked-a-la-fashion-magazine to i-hate-my-body-because-of-what-I-see-in-the-mirror is a form of vanity.  And each mocks a Designer who is perfect in both plan and execution. 
 I’ve had women friends tell me that going a day without makeup is torturous; and others who say being photographed without it resembles a boudoir session.   Men who spend hours lifting weights, others who run as though if they stop their demons will catch them.  I’ve heard little girls lament the hue of their skin, little boys undone over the color of their hair.  And I wonder, how must this grieve the Holy Spirit?  What must the Creator think when His creation bewails the beauty intrinsic in His creation, in His palette, His angles or lines, His slopes or curves?  Is He frustrated with our incessant striving for such a fictitious ideal, when He wove individuality and uniqueness into every space of creation?  Particularly when the God who oversaw every detail, each resplendent jewel, of the Temple in which His Spirit would be present, chooses to indwell our frames with His presence.  If Solomon’s temple was the most grand thing humans could build, how much more so must the body of each believer be in the eyes of the Lord if His Holy Spirit takes up residence therein?
Thus, my body, regardless of how I think of it [or how I have treated it] must be more beautiful than the Temple.  More dazzling than the arc of the presence.  More amazing than the holy of holies, because the Spirit of the Lord resides within me; and I am His creation for thus, even more exacting than the human-hewn temple.  And I shall treat it as such.  In its current state: without reaching my ideals, without countless months at the gym, without rigid nutritional makeovers.  Right now.  As I am.  As you are, beloved.
Yes, I should fuel my body with the nutrients that were designed for this purpose, not with what’s most convenient.  Yes, I should engage in physical activities that maintain my overall health and mobility.  And yes, I should encourage others to do the same.  But conversely, heeding the colloquialism “everything in moderation” is [mostly] permissible as well.[1]  So a life of rigid abstinence and disciplined striving towards physical perfection is not the most honoring course of action for a believer.  Because they can lead to stringent reliance and blind focus on self; which, because it removes focus from God the Creator, is sinful.

Therefore, in order to honor my maker, I will honor His creation.  Me.  My body.  Not the body gracing the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.  Not the body of my Pilates instructor.  No body that is not mine is something after which I will chase any more.  I will revel in the feats of which it has rendered me capable: bringing two amazing children into the world, and the inevitable changes that came with motherhood; still skiing and summiting five 14ers, in spite of an inherited bum knee; being able to preform, though still hesitant, wrist breaks, because one did and I’ve lost some range of motion because of it.  And I will continue to reach for new ones; but I will not allow any ideal from anywhere to displace my delight in my physical form.  And I beg you not to either.      

As you might know, I was recently involved in an auto accident [seatbelts and booster seats, people!]; and while everyone’s fine, there were a few days there when I didn’t feel fine.  I was chained to my bed or sofa with headaches, hobbled with pain, unable to sleep or move for all the bruises.  My loved ones were forced to give me a wide berth because even their gentlest touches hurt.  I couldn’t go to the gym, couldn’t play with my kids, couldn’t even walk through the grocery store at a normal pace.  It was pretty miserable and lonely.  Not because the people who care about me abandoned me, but because I felt unable to participate in life. 

This isn’t an exercise in self-pity; it was actually revelatory for me.  There are so many people who experience pain or limited mobility or have an illness that prevents them from living the life they expected.  And as cranky as I was after a week, I have the utmost respect for those who endure this battle every day.  My prayers this week are for the people who struggle with pain, with limitations in this physical body, with unseen disabilities, with illness that steals their physical state.  Whether it was self-inflicted; or whether it was inexplicable.  Join me in being mindful and praying for those for whom their physical body feels more like a prison than a gift.  For the Lord is the rescuer of prisoners and the redeemer of the physical, either here or in the time to come.      


Visit one of my favorite blogs and activists on this topic: Beauty Redefined to take back the definition of what’s truly beautiful. 

[1] See Ecclesiastes.  And note that while “everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  And that there remain certain appetites that are outside the boundary of scripture and should therefore be avoided all together. 

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