I Want to Reject the World’s Shaming of My Body

Jo Arkell 1 week ago
Blog 3 mins
Found in: Bible, Culture

I have to admit that on bad days, I criticise my body at least a thousand times. And the worst thing is, I often do it to myself when I am already at my most vulnerable: getting changed at the swimming pool, taking off my clothes at the end of a long day. I am already exposed, naked, and it is at this moment I choose to hurt myself with words. Words that I don’t want to write down because they are not words that I would say to anyone else.

It’s no surprise that when I go to bed with these thoughts in my mind, I wake up with them right there too. Barely are my eyes open before I have run through the list of everything that I ate the day before… Was it good or bad? Was I good or bad? And if it was really bad (an excessive amount of Maltesers, for example!) I speak harsh words over myself again, not so much a judgement, just an involuntary response.

I’ve always felt that my issues with my body were mine to deal with, maybe too unspiritual for the Lord to get involved with. But a few months ago, after starting to pray over this issue, my morning Bible reading came from Psalms, and these were the words that whispered gently to my heart and mind:

‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you’ (Psalm 143:8).

How amazing it would be if I, like David, could ‘let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love’, instead of letting the morning bring me criticism, comparison and the feeling of not being enough.

Where do all my negative thoughts come from? I could guess at some specific places, but I think they generally come from existing in our culture. There’s a certain amount of wisdom offered by Baz Luhrmann in his song, ‘Everybody’s Free’. Along with advising us to be ‘kind to your knees’ and to ‘wear sunscreen’, he cautions listeners, ‘Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.’

If we think we are immune to the messages our society drills into us, we are naive – it’s hard to escape from the ‘truth’ that the world presents: If you are thin/muscly and beautiful/handsome, then you are worthy to be loved. And if you are not, then you’re lazy, weak and generally unlovable.

In her book Breaking Free from Body Shame – Dare to Reclaim What God Has Named Good, Jess Connolly declares that our bodies do not belong to the world, for the world to have an opinion on them. The world does not get to say if my body measures up to the beauty standard it has created. Whatever the world says about bodies, or my body in particular, is really nothing to do with me.

Not only does God say my body is good, but he also says it is so much more than what it looks like.

God is the one who gets to say things about my body, and he says that he has made my body, and that my body is good. Right at the beginning, when God created the land and the plants and the creatures, and then people (and their bodies), his word says, ‘God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.’ (Genesis 1:31)

Not only does God say my body is good, but he also says it is so much more than what it looks like.

Through the Old Testament we see the time and effort involved in building the various ‘homes’ for the presence of God, first the tabernacle and then the temple. The materials and cost involved is mind-blowing and, if you have read through those chapters in Kings you will know, documented in minute detail. But this is not the final plan for God and mankind dwelling together.

With the arrival of Jesus on earth, God choses to dwell in a single human body, which also blows our minds, Jesus – fully God, fully man. After Jesus’s death and resurrection, God’s chosen dwelling place on earth is no longer a manmade structure, or a single human body, God dwells by his Holy Spirit in our bodies, as his people. ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’ (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Our bodies, the things we criticise because they don’t look the way the world says they should, they are the place God dwells by his Holy Spirit. Yes, our bodies are so much more than what they look like.

I want to reject what the world has to say about my body. I want to choose each day to be full of thankfulness for the body that God has given me and to stop wishing it was different. I want to care enough to look after my body, but I also want to be free from thinking about it all the time with the narrow perspective of what it looks like. That’s what I’m asking God for.

I’m praying that God will help me ‘let the morning bring me word of his unfailing love’ and help me remember that he says my body is good – just as he says yours is too.