by Bronwyn Lea
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
As I scroll through my phone and see ads for “get in shape” specials from gyms, diet plans and nutrition coaches, the lyrics from my teenager’s playlist break through into my consciousness. “I’m in love with your body… I’m in love with the shape of you,” croons Ed Sheeran, and I wince a little. Who loves the shape of this body I’m in, with its scars and wrinkles and extra layers of padding?
With lyrics and ads like this, it’s tempting to make all sorts of plans to restrain my eating and retrain my abs. And yet I sense the Holy Spirit inviting me to slow down and reframe my perspective first.
Somewhere in my memory, I remember the vow from my wedding day: “with my body I thee worship.” These were vows said to a spouse, but they echo the covenant we have with God (Ephesians 5:25-32), who gave his body for us (Luke 22:9), and to whom we offer ours (Romans 12:1-2). I pause a second. This is very different to Ed’s song lyrics, which seem to be saying “I worship your body.”
My body is the instrument for worship, not the object of it.
I love with my body, I’m not supposed to be in love with it.
I’m not sure how to pray about this. So I start with three little prayer prompts that have often helped me when I’m stuck: Help. Thanks. Wow.
God, help me to listen to my body more than to shout at it.
Help me to honor my body rather than shame it. Help me to honor it in youth and as it ages. Help me to honor my own body in sickness and in health.
Help me to learn how to steward my body and keep it safe.
God, help me to care for my body as you do: to feed, clothe and nurture it. To protect it. To nourish it. To love my own self as I love others: I admit I have not loved others (or my own body) as you do.
Thank you God for giving me life and breath and strength.
Thank you for this body with which I feel sunshine, and back scratches, and taste ice cream. Thank you for all the delightful, delicious, beautiful things I get to experience with my skin, taste, eyes, and ears.
Thank you for my fingers and toes. I know my Mom counted them with delight when I was a baby and I’m not sure when we stopped being grateful for our digits. But thank you again for the wonder of fingers and toes: for hands that render service and clap with praise and prepare food. For toes that give balance and support us literally every step of the way.
Thank you for sleep. And stretches. And belly laughter. Thank you for those good things in life which I only experience through this body you have created.
Thank you too for the ability to feel pain and aches: signals that something is wrong and that I—my embodied soul and ensouled body—need rest and repair. Thank you for those build-in cues to care.
Thank you for the promise of resurrection bodies - that the weaknesses and pains we carry in this life will all be healed when these same bodies move into the life to come (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
Creator God, when I think about it - I’m amazed. We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
I praise you for the brilliant things my body does without my even realizing it: for a heart that beats, for a stomach that digests, and for the ability to sneeze or cough when something is in the way.
I praise you for making our bodies capable of growing and healing. For the genius design of irreducibly complex knee joints and the gorgeous mystery of DNA. I marvel that without my opening a single book to study, my body knew how to grow a baby and feed it. Truly, you are a master craftsman.
And God - it wows me that you, the God of the entire universe, chooses to live inside this body. Even the highest heaven could not contain you, and yet you’ve chosen ME—this strange combination of cells and muscle called my body—as your living quarters?! I can hardly get my mind around being “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), but that is what I am!
God, I repent of worshipping bodies.
This coming year, with my body I will worship you.
Bronwyn Lea is the author of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and Sisters in a Sex-Crazed World. She is a mom, pastor, editor for Propel Sophia, and fan of fun board games. Sign up for her monthly-ish newsletter here, and connect online on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.