During one of the last golden days of summer, I watched the sun illuminate a forest of changing aspen leaves. Each aspen glowed as a piece of God's handiwork. As I sat in the silence I didn't hear any aspen bemoan their figure or their hair or their height.
God made the trees of the fields. He also made women. Female bodies are his handiwork, beautifully and wonderfully made by the same Maker of aspen trunks and leaves (see Psalm 139:14). But if you and I stood for hours before a light that illuminated our hair, chins, breasts, waists, and legs, would we glow with joy in the light?
Wouldn't our conversation turn to self-critique of our bodies and those of our neighbors?
The impulse to pick apart my body has become a regular temptation in my 17th week of pregnancy. As God knits my baby together, is he still delighted in my body, the vessel for this new life? Are my breasts, belly, and feet still wonderfully made?
All other created things bask in the light, unconcerned about their physical bodies: aspen, my three Welsh corgis, honey bees. Can you imagine aspen talking like women do?
"I can't get my leaves to lay right; her leaves are always perfect."
"Her trunk is the perfect figure. Doesn't matter what I do, mine will always be thicker."
The sturdiest, thickest aspen soaks up the sunbeams, honoring God as much as the sleek and svelte one. None complain.
Our bodies, Paul says, are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). I think back to Solomon's temple and Moses' instructions for the original tabernacle. In these holy places God designed everything: curtains of twisted linen, embroidered blue, purple and scarlet yarn, bronze clasps, silver bases, gold hooks, fine gems, pomegranates, and bells—all for glory and beauty (Exodus 36-40). Our bodies, the new temples, are also meant for glory and beauty.
If you or I saw God's tabernacle, we wouldn't criticize its girth or color or stonework. If we came upon the trees of Mamre and saw a sign that read, "God's trees," we would not disparage their size or height. But when we read, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit," we think this means something about serving God with our bodies, but we don't afford our bodies the same reverence and intentional appreciation we reserve for other sanctuaries.
God Uses Scarred Women
Women's bodies don't seem like temples because we're always bucking our sacred status. We're constantly dyeing, dieting, squishing, stuffing, ignoring, berating, or generally ignoring our bodies. We've marred the handiwork God made in our flesh. Our shame haunts us into buying cover-ups for our hips at the beach, concealer for our acne scars, creams for stretch marks. We buy pills to lose weight, shoes to lengthen and tone our legs, styles that flatter the parts of our bodies we want others to notice. But we all have places we firmly believe are not wonderfully made. Nothing I write will disabuse you of your conviction.