Happy New Year!
This is my yearly reminder to myself and to anyone else who will listen that there is no resolution that, if kept, will make you more worthy of love.
I mention this because as a middle aged woman, my body seems to be deteriorating right before my eyes.
How “wonderfully and fearfully made” is a body which ages, or grows fat, or develops cancer or no longer produces insulin? I mean, what am I supposed to do with a body that is going to die ??
And yet John 1 says And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
What can it mean that God would slip into the vulnerability of skin and be made flesh? Seems a lousy idea in a way, given the very sloppy and broken reality of our physical lives as humans. Our bodies bruise and decay and disappoint us, and sag insistently toward the earth so why in the world would God not spare God’s self the indignity of having things like sweat glands and the hiccups?
The other barrier to believing our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made is that we are quite bombarded by messages otherwise. Messages from every billboard we see or commercial we hear. Convincing you that a) your body is bad and b) your body can be “perfect” if you buy a certain product…and let there be no mistake, this is a billion dollar industry.
Our youth-obsessed body-improvement culture in which we find ourselves tells us that we can actually avoid any appearance of our own mortality through the right combination of elective surgery and Pilates.
So this week, as the new year dawns along with our resolve to improve ourselves, I invite you to take notice every time you see or hear a message about body improvement. Every pill, or exercise machine, or special gym membership, or tanning bed… every liposuction clinic and celebrity endorsed diet plan. All of it. Notice the obsession our culture has with stretching and tanning and increasing and decreasing our flesh into submission to some sort of bizarre ideal. Then in contrast, notice every time this week that you see or hear this message: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, in this we have seen God’s glory, full of grace and truth…you have received the power to be Children of God.
Because that is a different message entirely.
We may want a “spirituality” of pure transcendence which rises above our broken physical reality, but in Jesus we see that a physical life is a spiritual life…
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God came and made God’s home with us and in a real body.
So I wonder if maybe in the incarnation God has done nothing less than blessed all human flesh. Blessed it, not made it into our version of perfect. Perfection as we picture it and as it relates to human bodies is impossible. Because as we know, the perfect is so often the enemy of the good. And even God, having finished creating the physical world, including the human form, called it good. Not perfect mind you, but good. So, let us remember that our good and imperfect bodies are born of God and so we have no business calling what God pronounced good anything but good. Because if the Word became flesh and lived among us ~ then despite our botoxic quest for the illusion of perfection, your body is beautiful to God.
Take care of your beautiful selves.
Just throwing it out there,
Here’s something I read between Christmas and New Years each year:
“For the Time Being”
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.
There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.
But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this.
To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.
In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.