Embodied

“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.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Honor God with my body? A temple of the Holy Spirit?

I rush past these verses, averting my eyes, moving quickly to the next thing, to what feels like safer ground. How I think and feel about my body is often complex and confusing, a tangled mess of experiences and emotions. As someone who is biracial, and who has lived cross-culturally, my skin is always too dark or too light, my hair too curly or not curly enough. I have more curves than I would like and, although I hope I move with some semblance of grace in my home country, in my host country I often felt like a lumbering giant. Thrown into this mix is the pain and frustration of chronic illness. My body enforces limits, rarely what or where I want them to be, and I can view it as an enemy, a cage, or a burden. A thing in which the ‘real me’ is trapped.

This is my story, but I wonder if you can relate? If nothing else, in the busyness of life, we tend not to think about our bodies except in terms of how we want to change or improve them. This is not always a bad thing – it’s good and right that we should care well for our bodies. But the fact remains that from vitamins and medications to food and exercise to the clothes we wear and the hairstyles we choose, we pay most attention to our bodies when something is wrong or different from how we would want it to be.

I didn’t realize I was thinking about my body like this, seeing only the deficit, until a few years ago when I stumbled across the phrase ‘embodied souls’. Embodied. Not put into or added on, but intertwined and complete. It’s theological shorthand for some of the profound and wonderful mystery of what it means to be human and made in the image of God.

In the introduction to his book, What God Has to Say About Our Bodies, Sam Allberry says, “We tend to divorce our bodies from spiritual matters, yet the Bible has so much to say about them and the Gospel is good news for them. Our bodies are not just there, happening to exist as vessels for our souls, they mean something to God…. And all that Christ has done in His life, death and resurrection is not in order for us one day to escape our body, but for Him one day to redeem it. Far from being a spiritual irrelevance, Scripture makes it clear that our bodies are meaningful and are part of God’s eternal plan for us.”

No matter how I feel about my body in the moment, God says that it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He says that He formed me. He knit me together in my mother’s womb. He uses words like ‘craftsmanship’, and ‘very good’. This body of mine is not a mistake or an accessory, it is intentional design by the wise and loving Creator of the universe. Flawed and broken in this fallen world, yes, but made with purpose for a purpose.

I think of my body in terms of what it is not, but as I come to God’s Word, I am called to see it the way that God sees it. I love to dance (not well) and to sing (even worse!) and because I have a body, I am able to do those things. I can hold my little niece, snuggled close in my arms, I can hug my friends and family. I can drink in the deep blue of the sky and see the shimmering glory of sunlight playing on the water. I can taste meals – riots of flavour developed by God’s kindness and human creativity and skill. Food that nourishes my body and delights my senses. I can smell jasmine on a summer’s evening and the delicious warmth of freshly baked bread. I can hear birds singing in the mornings and the voices and the laughter of the people that I love. I can lift my hands in worship, I can bend my knees in prayer. The physical postures of my body inform and express the inward postures of my heart. Not all these options are available to me all the time, but even still, I have so much to be thankful for.

My body is a gift from God to experience this world He has made and to know and love Him more. The good things it allows me to do and enjoy speak to me of the extravagance of God’s love and grace towards me. The very limitations of it point me to the Him who is unlimited and who delights to be all that I need. My body is a lesson in theology, the Great Story my Creator is telling. And one day, it will be redeemed and made whole.

How do you think about your body? How does it point you towards God?

5 Comments

  1. Sarah Hilkemann June 15, 2022

    Thank you so much for this, Rachel! I am really intrigued by the Sam Allberry book- thank you for including that! 🙂 All your examples of experiencing the joy of the Lord through your senses are making me pay attention to what’s around me today.

    1. Rachel Mutesi June 20, 2022

      I really enjoyed the book! It was short and packed with good things and just really helpful for me in thinking through some different things. And reminding me that our bodies are good gifts from our good God.

  2. Taryn McKim June 20, 2022

    Thank you Rachel! These are good thoughts. I also have struggled with seeing my body by its deficits and am challenged by you to remember how God sees it. Thank you for reminding me to let my body and postures point me toward God.

    1. Taryn June 20, 2022

      hmm, not sure why exactly that picture showed up so large, but I can’t seem to edit it out.

      1. Rachel Mutesi June 20, 2022

        Haha, it’s ok, I feel like this is exactly something I would do! It’s a lovely picture.
        Thanks for sharing a little of where you are at. It really is such a struggle sometimes. Writing this article has been a good reminder for me too.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.