Day 9: Rejoicing in the Body (From a Woman's Perspective)
I have a confession; I don’t rejoice in my body. Weird confession for someone writing on ‘Rejoicing in the Body’ huh? I thought so too, but I’m learning how to rejoice in my body, this physical Imago Dei.
I’m more familiar with body disintegration. Sin entered the world and we stopped experiencing our bodies as 'gift' way back in the garden. We now tend to experience them through a lens of shame.
At 6-years-old, I recall my first visceral experience of shame. That’s when sexual abuse started; self-hatred quickly followed. I felt confused by it and hated the way it made my body feel—powerful sensations and demonic accusations. I hated the way it messed up my real needs for love and attention.
I get sick at how my body bears that pain still in physical suffering. I’ve gotten discouraged by my body getting all the wrong kinds of attention and not enough of the life-giving kind.
About six months ago, the Lord stepped into this disintegration more deeply. He showed me how my body had been holding onto pain, shame, anxiety, and self-hatred. Through our study of Theology of the Body, I have begun to see how I was viewing my body and its good desires as mostly evil! I have struggled with what Pope St. John Paul II calls the 'spousal meaning of the body,' the idea that my body is actually a good gift for 'another' and how his body can be a gift for me too.
In love, the Lord designed me in this feminine body and makes it a sign of Himself! In my very make-up, I am a bearer of life. I show His tenderness and compassion. I display His beauty and joy and I'm given a body to worship Him, to be a temple of His Spirit. What?!? That’s amazing!
Deep shame, sourced in childhood sexual abuse, has tempted me to forget that my body is a gift from God, a gift to be offered back to Him and others.
I confess: I don’t rejoice in my body. But I’m learning how. I’m learning to see the beauty that God has put within this feminine ‘sacrament.’ I desire to make Him and His love known through it, even to myself. I rejoice in the areas I display Him well! And I offer Him places of emotional and physical disintegration where I still need His mercy; that’s not a bad thing.
I pray with you today: ‘Lord, help me rejoice in this gift that You have given me. I cry out for Your mercy in the ways that this body needs Your redemption, what only You can give and restore. Help me be willing to offer it as a joyful gift to You and others along my path.’
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’