Embodied Spirituality for a Body Shaming Culture

Media bombards us with message of how are bodies are not being all they should or could. We are told our bodies are too much or too little and the ‘perfect’ physique seems like searching for a unicorn. If even many of our culture’s most attractive celebrities images are airbrushed and digitally doctored, then what hope do any of the rest of us have?

How content are we with our bodies and living life in our bodies? Is our discontent focused on our physical health or our longing to be perceived as desirable? How does our discontent with our bodies impact other areas of our lives?

Brene Brown writes, “What we think, hate, loathe and wonder about the acceptability of our bodies reaches much further and impacts far more than our appearance. The long reach of body shame can impact who and how we love, work, parent, communicate and build relationships.”

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, Paul makes the astounding claim that “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.” This is tricky language in our 21st century world obsessed with image. If we aren’t careful, then we might assume that not only will our romantic partner, family, and friends find our bodies less desirable, but so might God. This can leave some spiraling into shame. Paul’s intent is quite the opposite.

Our bodies are set apart as sacred space. Our embodied life has been reserved. Our embodied lives have been claimed by God. It is not our culture’s desire that gives us value. It is Christ’s Spirit. And this Spirit has taken up residence within us. This is not a house guest coming over unexpectedly for the weekend. It is much more akin to a new addition to the family. Things will be rearranged. Priorities refocused. Room will be made. Habits shifted. Routines adjusted. Life will never be the same.

This is the kind of change Paul envisions for our embodied life. We are not given some new law to sink us into shame. We are given a new Life living inside of us to lift us into new Life. So how we take care of our body matters. How we eat and exercise matters. How we steward and express our sexuality matters. How we love living in our own skin as it is, not as we wish it were, matters. All of this because we have become sacred space. We are the place where eternity and finitude co-mingle. We have been drawn up into the Life of God and this Life living in us begins reordering how we live in our bodies, and also how we love living in them. To the delight, enjoyment, and pleasure of God!