When the Body Speaks {The Grove: Body}

In therapy a few months ago, while I was re-telling a traumatic story, my therapist asked me if I had feeling in my feet. Taking a deep breath, I took stock of how I was feeling and my body, indeed, felt numb. For the next few minutes she had me rub my legs and my arms, bringing life and feeling back into the extremities, reminding me that I am a whole person, not just an emotion or a soul, but a physical entity as well. I used the time to listen and pay attention to what my body was saying. 

I don’t love my body. In fact, I think I am mostly indifferent to it. For as long as I can remember, my body has taken second place to my head. I have been known to find bruises on my shins without being able to recall when I got them, I have run into door jams and even into walls. I am amazed that I haven’t crashed a car as I am not sensory or tactile, I don’t even find much pleasure in food, and I could sleep in a bed full of crumbs without discomfort.

I don’t know if this is the PTSD, a disconnect between the brain and body to numb the physical expression of the emotional pain and fear, or if it is simply who God made me. A head case, intent on formulating ideas, dreaming up stories, finding pleasure when a chaotic structure becomes understandable. 

Either way, I know I have been missing out. The body is a part of who I am, but it isn’t the part of me I worry about or am concerned with and the attention I do give it is usually an afterthought. I exercise for emotional health and relieving the stress, eat healthy to keep my weight in check, take hot baths to relieve the pain in my back. Anything done with the intent of beautifying, honoring, or cherishing just because I love my body is unheard of. It seems selfish, unnecessary and, dare I say, worldly.

But I’m wrong. 

The body is a beautiful part of who we are, and it is a part of us that is loved by God. It was intentionally made with purpose and beauty and ought to be honored and cherished as such. It ought to be enjoyed and pampered and fed, and when it speaks, we should listen.

What does the body need? Does it long for the sun? Do its legs need a good shave and moisturizing? Do the hips need a stretch and the neck a nice rub? Does the hair need a cut or just a hint of a curl? Maybe the nails could use a nice trim or polish.

It takes practice to listen to the body’s cues, and because I am predisposed to ignore it, I often misdiagnose its needs. Instead of resting, I’ll run. Instead of eating, I’ll refrain. Instead of feeling, I’ll numb. Instead of healing, I’ll push through the pain.

In essence, I disparage the body that God made for me, claiming that, because it is finite, it is of no eternal importance. 

The Scriptures call our bodies a temple, THE temple of God, his dwelling place, and we ought to honor him with our bodies. I think we usually read that verse and decide that we honor God through what we DON’T do with our bodies. We aren’t promiscuous or adulterous and maybe we don’t smoke or get tattoos. We beat it into submission. But what do we do FOR our bodies that honors God? Can the care of our physical bodies be an act of worship too and what would that look like?

For me, I think it would look like a lot of simple things. Things like taking a shower with love and care, moisturizing the skin, plucking eyebrows, brushing my hair. Instead of hurrying through, just getting it done, taking the time to feel and touch and listen to what the body longs for and needs. It would look like sitting down at the table and eating food. Food my body needs to sustain itself but also food that I enjoy eating. It would mean stopping or slowing down when my body feels pain, when my head aches, or the back spasms. It means treating my body as an essential and loved part of my personhood.

I don’t think that I will ever be a person that is sensory oriented or super in tune with the body connection. The disconnect is already finely tuned within me, but that doesn’t mean I will give up altogether. I will rub my legs and arms when I feel disconnected, remembering I am whole. I will invest time and money into the care of my body, breathing deeply, stopping when I need to. 

I’ll be paying attention to the body God gave me.

This will be my act of worship.

Do you honor and love your body? In what ways do you care for your body? 


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14 Comments

  1. Abigail Zhao April 5, 2019

    So good! I remember a year or two ago I read similar thoughts from Morgan Day Cecil, a Holy Yoga and Feminine Wholeness Coach on YouTube and Facebook. That afternoon, I realized my heart and body’s true desires are HEALTHY when I’m in a healthy place. It looked like having a snack, stretching, breathing, then running out in the sun by the river. Then a nice, hot shower. Some of this is from the Church’s historical emphasis on the mind and spirit at the expense of our bodies. I’m thankful Gd led me to writings that helped change my thinking in this area, even before I met my now-husband.

    1. Joy Smalley April 6, 2019

      Yes! It is a hard thing to remember for me, that our heart and body both have true, good desires that can be honored and that those are glorifying to God. I will look up a Holy Yoga, I do love yoga 🙂

  2. Elizabeth April 5, 2019

    These are brave confessions here, Joy. I have the same struggle, to live IN my body. To hold in tension the fact that we are dust and to dust we will return, and that our bodies are declared very good. It’s an ongoing process. Sometimes it’s even the things like realizing I’m rushing through a shower and taking the time breathe through the shower and slowly shampoo my hair instead of rush (which incidentally does such a better job of cleaning my hair!). It’s taking a dance class and learning to move and feel through movement. Those dance class times often hold holy moments for me, like the teacher is repeating the very things God has been teaching me in private. I’m slowly learning to care more for my body, including nutrition and sleep, and not push myself too hard (and depend on coffee) the way I used to.

    I’m definitely in process — will probably always be in process — because I’m geared more toward disembodied living. Embodied theology — so good. I am loving Humble Roots (finishing it finally) and Embracing the Body for these very reasons.

    1. Joy Smalley April 6, 2019

      I get it. Sometimes, for me, it’s just remembering TO BREATHE! I’ve also thought that dance classes would be helpful in the mind/body connection, I’m glad you mentioned it and that you have found joy and pleasure in it. Thank you for sharing, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my disembodied struggles, lol.

  3. Danielle Wheeler April 5, 2019

    Yes, yes, yes! It was a game changer for me when I began to view caring for my body as tending to the temple of the Holy Spirit. That it wasn’t selfish or vain, something to fall to the bottom of the priority list. And it’s incredible how renewing it is spiritually, emotionally and mentally when acts of body care are done with this mindset. I’m so excited for the pedicure part of the Velvet Ashes Retreat this year for these reasons! Thanks for sharing so tenderly and honestly, Joy.

    1. Joy Smalley April 6, 2019

      It is so difficult to move from, ‘this is selfish’ to ‘this is holy’. I love that you have set up physical self care as a part of VA retreats. I believe in the vision of viewing ourselves as whole persons seeking to live in true shalom, the harmony of all our parts.

    2. Kelly April 10, 2019

      Ya,ll- so much of this is being deeply worked into my heart mind and body in this season. I love how God brings these things to the corporate forefront! Been reading on biblical self-care – deny yourself and follow Jesus doesn’t mean deny your humanity! Hallelujah!

      And honoring Him WITH my body is something I’m working on. But bringing it into submission- with God on the throne and not wellness! I want to reach for Him and not the latest essential oil blend. He is knocking down some idols in my life. And replacing lies with truth. And it is so so good.

  4. Janis McArthur April 5, 2019

    Yes, I totally agree. It’s a good reminder that we all need to take care of our bodies for we are the temple of the Lord. In the past, I too didn’t pay much attention to my body. A lot of it had to do with my worth as a person. I didn’t value my body like our Lord did. He values every part of it and I didn’t feel I was worth taking care of it like I should. The past few years, I have been starting to see that God values all of me, my mind, my emotions, and my body. I know that if I don’t care of my body, then I feel it in my emotions, my body. When I don’t eat right, exercise, or even look my best, I know that I suffer for it and it is also not honoring the Lord. He wants us to be our best not just for ourselves and others bur for his glory and to be a witness for Him.

    1. Joy Smalley April 6, 2019

      Hi Janis, I love that you shared how the care of your body was linked to self-worth. I can completely relate to that. It is also a good reminder that the care for our physical self impacts the emotional self. It is crazy cool how God has connected the pieces of who we are and that when we forsake one part, the other suffers. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Elizabeth April 5, 2019

    The idea of the our bodies as temples is not new to me, in theory, but in practice . . . altogether different. What helped me most was learning how much care was put into all ancient temples, including Israel’s temple. Care for physical, holy places was a big deal. Every detail was attended to. Then I heard a nutritionist talk about our bodies as temples and how it’s our job to care for the temple, so when no one is doing the care, that’s us falling down on the job. She said it much more eloquently than that, but it stayed with me — it’s my job to care for my temple, but I wasn’t, wasn’t at all. In my growing up years, the focus was on the spiritual, following the rules, knowing all the right answers in my head, so I never learned the importance of physical things in this world, including my own temple. These lessons have been several years in the making, and I am so thankful to be learning them and to continue to learn them.

    1. Joy Smalley April 6, 2019

      The care of the temple was a big deal! I love that you brought that up, I keep thinking of the sacrifice and time and money that went into the building of the temple. I honestly have never heard a preacher talk about our physical bodies as a part of our spiritual selves or that God loves the bodies he made. It becomes easy to discard the body as unimportant or even shameful then. If the whole focus of life becomes, ‘die to self’, how can we love ourselves as God’s created?

      1. Elizabeth April 6, 2019

        Ohh these are such good points. I wish we could talk in person some day!

        1. Joy Smalley April 6, 2019

          Me too!

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