For from their greatness and beauty of created things, their original author, by analogy can be seen. -Wisdom 13: 5
Have you ever listened to little kids boast about their abilities? Better yet, have you been privy to an argument related to talents, birthday gifts, older siblings?
“I just learned how to ride my bike without training wheels.”
“Oh, yeah? I already ride a bike without training wheels.”
“I bet you didn’t ride a bike without training wheels when you were five.”
“Nope, I learned to ride a bike without training wheels when I was three….”
Perhaps if you have siblings/nieces/nephews/children, this fierce attempt to prove one’s self sounds familiar?
On different occasions I have listened to children in these roles, boasting and betting, and found myself marveling at the self-assurance they possess. In my own home I have been left to mull over how to simultaneously foster and temper this level of unbridled confidence. Sometimes I’d like to bottle it up and save some for later, other times I am in awe over the absolute certainty of their unique giftedness.
Body Image: Both/And
Confidence is good after all, just as humility is. The combination of the two is a truly healthy pair. As the mother of girls, I am keenly aware of the images, role models, movies, books, music, and language used in our house about bodies; and the reality that my relationship with my own body speaks volumes to my children about how to accept and nurture their bodies.
Sometimes I am surprised by how unpracticed I am at naming this out loud; how simple and intentional this practice requires me to be.
Jesus Took on Flesh
Whether for the sake of our children or our sisters, how have I/how can I take opportunities to thank God for creating my body in all of its uniquenesses? How do I speak about myself or the figures of others? Do my words build up or tear down?
The God of the universe took on flesh. If anyone understands the limitations and beauty of being bodied persons, it is the Lord.
Core to our values as Catholics is the unwavering belief in each person’s inherent dignity—their imago dei. This means that not only are we made in the image and likeness of God, but that God designed each of us on purpose and with great artistry. Every gift, mole, quirk, scar, dimple, wrinkle, stretch mark, freckle, tic, curl, laugh; every inch of you was willed or allowed by the God of the universe at this particular time in history. We can be humble enough to accept this body as limited, and we can be confident that God is specifically invested in, delighted by, and enamored with the intricacy of each one of us.God designed each of us on purpose and with great artistry. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Perhaps your experience is similar to mine, in that at some point you realized subtly or overtly that either:
- Compared to _________, you have nothing to brag about. Self-confidence makes you look really uppity and self-absorbed, or just silly.
- If only _________, you would have reason to be confident.
This is the work of consumerism (also the devil) at its finest. This is what drives the cosmetic industry, the diet industry, the clothing industry, the interior design industry; heck, even the deluxe grocery industry. And while each of these can be used to achieve good things, we have been sold a bill of goods that we are insufficient as we are—as we were lovingly created.
I have been a fabulous student of these “truths.” I didn’t even put up a fight. Humility? Check. Uppity and self-absorbed? Not good. So I followed along for a long time like a lemming, hoping my imitations of “ideal” were good enough.
Looking back, I want to shout at my younger self, to write it on the ceiling of my childhood bedroom, the inside of my locker, and journals, on mirrors: “You can be aware of your imperfections and confident in whom God made you to be, at the same time!”
But I didn’t know that then, and no one told me I had that option.
Let me tell you the words I wish I would have heard: You have that option.
Reasons to Praise Him
I wonder from time to time what it is like for the Creator of the universe to be praised for the grandeur, perfection and variety of all created things, to hear the crowning glory of creation (humanity) bemoan the splendor they were seemingly shorted. We’re probably all guilty of it on some level, but it is worth considering. How can we claim both as “truth”?
We catch glimpses, from time to time, of that blessed reality where our dignity is realized, and it is a sight to behold. We recognize when those we love are in their element, their happy place. On occasion, we may even catch it in ourselves (if we allow it). Thomas Merton, a convert and Trappist Monk at Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky, wrote about an encounter he had in downtown Louisville one day at the corner of 4th & Walnut:
….There is no way of telling people that they are walking around shining like the sun.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time…
I think of these words so often in terms of our experience of belovedness; specifically around the challenge of transferring our knowledge of being beloved by God, to allowing ourselves the grace to do more than accept ourselves, but to embrace our inherent and purposeful dignity for what it is—a gift.
What is one tangible way you will thank God, today, for the gift of your body—warts and all?
On Women, Jesus, and Body Image #BISblog // Click To Tweet