Monday, October 4, 2021

What He Created

When it was coming up on my birthday a little while back, I saw that was having a big end of summer sale. So I made a big order as a sort of birthday present to myself. It's a big deal since I don't normally do a lot of online ordering--but because I don't, I like to go big when I do. So if you've been glancing at my Goodreads widget lately, you've probably mainly been seeing books from this haul. 

I won't be talking about all of them, but I have to share the first one I read. Breaking Free from Body Shame: Dare to Reclaim What God Has Named Good by Jess Connolly was so good that, as I was reading it, I wanted to recommend it to everyone. There are a lot of different ways that you might feel about your body, or about bodies in general. So some people might really feel like they need a book with this title and others not so much. But I think it's an equally good read for whichever perspective you're coming from. 

The gist of her thesis is that God created our physical bodies and called them good, and therefore they are good and we don't need to view them as lacking. It's a simple statement, but you can spend a lot of time unpacking how your daily thoughts and attitudes do or do not come into alignment with this concept. It might be criticism towards one's own body or towards other people's. 

Jess briefly mentions how the body positivity movement really helped her to feel more comfortable with her body. The interesting thing about this is that it's had the opposite effect on me. As someone who is both short and naturally thin, I've always had people feel free to observe to me that I'm thin/skinny as if it is something wrong. I see stores advertising having sizes for everybody (all the way up to such and such plus sizes) and yet I pick up their smallest size and see that it is too big for me. So I end up feeling like I am not accepted and shouldn't accept myself. We all have different experiences and different bodies, and we should not be criticizing other people's bodies nor our own. (This is of course different from taking care of one's body so as to take care of what God has given us.) I've been on a journey to not feel like there is something wrong with the way I am physically--which is different, though with overlap, from my other journey of getting my health in balance. 

Jess intentionally kept this book, as she puts it, sort of surface level. Mostly when people talk about body issues, they go in deep on eating disorders or weight or abuse. What she says isn't generally so specific, and therefore it's applicable to everyone, whether someone struggling with an eating disorder or someone feeling shame after abuse or someone criticizing her own stomach (or someone else's). She kind of opens up your eyes to all of the little things that we do/say/think that contribute to feeling like our bodies are lacking. 

And her emphasis on the physical body being a creation of God reminds me a bit of C.S. Lewis. He talks in some of his writings and also portrays in Narnia and his other fiction that God created the physical world. The Christian perspective is so much about reminding ourselves of spiritual truths--but it isn't meant to be in a way that neglects the physical world that we currently live in and that God created. Yes, we look forward to a day when we don't have bodies that get tired and sick, but isn't it also amazing what these bodies can do? And as Jess points out, they are the vessels that we are currently in so that we can experience and live life. They are what allow us to observe all the different senses, and they are what allow us to serve others and to experience God. "Your King loves your body and gave His life so that you might experience Him in your body here and now and see your body restored in eternity" (39). It's about God's glory, not ours. This book is very freeing and allows you to accept a comfort with yourself and who you are.

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