I drove my daughter to school today in our well used, deep blue Honda Odyssey van. It’s rusted in a few spots, dented in the rear from our sons’ drivers ed days, and smelly from transporting dogs and sweaty ball players, wet snow boots, pants and skis, bathing suits and God knows what else.
That old van is worn out but reliable. Rusty but sturdy. Beat up, but because I’m nostalgic, dare I say – beautiful.
Kind of like my body.
This body has undergone numerous surgeries due to inflamed tonsils, appendicitis, and several flare ups of endometriosis. This body has birthed two sons, and held, rocked, feed, disciplined and prayed for three children. This body has given and received an abundance of life giving sweet love, from and to the same precious man for over twenty seven years. On many days, this body notices the effects, in it’s joints, muscles and back, of five decades of living.
This body is worn out but reliable. Rusty but sturdy. Beat up, but because I’m nostalgic, dare I say – beautiful.
Yes, beautiful in my eyes, but it wasn’t always that way. There were many years when I was certain I got the shaft in the figure department.
Why was I certain?
Because the words that are spoken, and the things that are implied to you as a teen and young adult, can and do stick. And just like most girls in this country, I entered my teen years believing that there were certain bodies that were beautiful and certain bodies that weren’t.
I remember instances where it was pointed out to me that I didn’t measure up, but surely worse than other’s opinions was my own negative self talk.
And I told myself I was too skinny, bony and not curvy or filled out enough. Taking words from the Commodores song, I was not a “brick house.” No, I told myself I was like the wood picket fence standing ramrod straight outside of the brick house – ha! There was so much unhelpful, unflattering persistent inner dialogue that I carried around.
I wasn’t alone though. If the conversations and beliefs of my girlfriends were any indication, they too also felt and heard messages that they weren’t good enough. Like me, they criticized their own viewed imperfections and pointed out to themselves their perceived flaws. It seemed that no girls were immune to this external and internal scrutiny. Not tall enough or not thin enough. Ears too big or eyes the wrong color. Hips too wide or rear end too flat. A little too much of this, or not enough of that.
And oh, it’s all such a lie!
Our bodies were created lovingly and uniquely and incredibly beautiful by a God that loves us more than we can even imagine and has such pride in His creation. He created each one of us individually, separately, miraculously – with not one single human being the same as another.
His creativity is endless and diverse and amazing.
Our bodies are meant to be our vehicles, vehicles that carry our spirit and our souls, while we travel through this life.
Our bodies are not meant to be a measuring stick to measure our worth or for comparison to anyone else’s. They are not meant to be used to draw attention to ourselves or to make us feel like we’re better or worse than another.
I read many fashion magazines in high school and college with unending ads of women with the “perfect” bodies. I watched movies where the camera always seemed to pan and then hold on women as they walked by and where the men in the films who were looking their way, would drop what they were doing and stand there completely stunned. Because apparently what they were looking at was so captivating, it took their breath away.
And I fell for it … I feel for it and started believing that if I didn’t look the way they did in those ads and those movies that I should somehow feel not good enough and ashamed.
Ashamed! How that must’ve grieved God’s heart for me to feel ashamed of the wondrous, flourishing body He gave me, that can skip and jump and laugh and love.
I believe that I’m no different than most women in saying that that shame caused me at times to hate my body. But around the time I started having babies and just when I started to see my body for the gift that it was and is, there were new things to contend with – scars, stretch marks, varicose veins and the like.
Our bodies were never meant to be left in the showroom though, clean and polished, with no miles on the odometer and no grease under the hood. Our bodies are meant to transport us through this journey, allowing us to encounter the winding, hilly streets set out before us.
I remember having an epiphany when the boys were very little and I was reading about the practice of foot binding in Ancient China, how their society at the time ranked women with the smallest feet highest in status and refinement. I couldn’t fathom women wrapping up their feet to the point of severe deformity, all in the name of class and acceptance.
Then I realized that it’s no different than our own cultural brain washing and body and sex-obsessed society, that puts women’s bodies in the category of something to be worshiped, and blindly accepts that there are only certain types that define beauty and value.
It was so freeing to challenge that thinking and to understand the truth. That my body, our bodies, are just vehicles, divinely engineered machines, fully functioning modes of transportation in ALL shapes, sizes and colors, that start out shiny and new, but over time show the wear and tear of living and experiencing many miles.
And that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the great adventure and the substance of our lives that’s the issue, not what model we drive.
Our bodies are just our vehicles, plain and simple. I’m so very thankful for the ride.
And as I write these words, I promise to myself that I will be grateful for my body; rust, dents and all, and that I will humbly strive to drive this vehicle in a manner that honors and glorifies the one who created it. I will keep my eyes on the horizon and on heaven, on the compass that continually redirects me down the road that leads to God.
1 Corinthians 6 : 19 – 20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”