During this season of Lent, a time when I’m especially drawn to thinking about the incarnated suffering of Christ, I’ve also thought of the way I view my own body. I’ve realized that for much of my Christian life, I’ve somewhat functioned as a gnostic – believing that while my spirit can be good (because of Christ’s redemption), my body ought to be tolerated at best. I’ve never really thought of my body as something to rejoice in. However, as I’ve contemplated how Jesus came to earth – how He literally became human and did His ministry as one of us – I’ve realized that God cares more about my body than I seemed to realize.
Thus, I decided to delve into valuing the body this past week during my spiritual discipline practice of ‘self-care.’
Here’s how Adele Calhoun describes this discipline:
“Desire: to value myself as my heavenly Father values me.
Definition: Self-care honors God by nurturing and protecting the limits and desires of the body, mind, and spirit.
- living in a way that honors your body as a living temple for God’s presence
- exercising and eating sensibly
- observing appropriate boundaries
- resting and keeping the sabbath
- giving and receiving love
- thanking God for the way he has designed you
- encouraging rather than neglecting yourself
- recognizing and practicing my spiritual gifts
- choosing healthy rather than unhealthy friendships”
“God inhabits our bodies, delighting in every inch of us. Every eccentricity and peculiarity is received. Every longing and self-destructive habit is known. God knows us through and through and still wants to make his home inside of us. The fact that the Holy Spirit wants to abide in us is one way we know how infinitely precious and beloved we are. We are God’s own prized possessions. Prized possessions are something you take care of” (pg. 81).
This week, I sought to give God glory with my body, even in small ways. However, I still struggled with this practice, especially because I can still very much feel that self-care is selfish. Thankfully, author Parker Palmer speaks to this concern when he writes,
“Self-care in never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others” (pg. 81).
So, here’s some of what I did:
- I ate healthful foods for my meals and snacks (for the most part). Instead of filling up on my usual go-tos (like desserts and…more desserts), I was extra conscious that what I ate would fuel me instead of only satisfying my sugar tooth cravings.
- I went to the gym to exercise four different times, realizing that getting my body moving is part of taking care of my body and my mind. Each time I exercised, I was struck by how much even a half-hour of sweating could make me more energetic and focused.
- I was more mindful of when I needed alone time to recharge after a busy day. Even though I was mindful, I largely failed at having this kind of restorative time alone.
- I tidied up my room so I could have a cleaner and more livable space. (Side note: exercising more produces much more dirty laundry)
- I looked into the mirror and considered the truth that I am made in God’s image – that my being made in God’s image is what gives me utter value and what invites me to see others as His dear children.
- I bought myself a stuffed bunny, simply because it made gave me joy during a stressful week.
- I lay down outside on the grass during a 60 degree day, allowing my skin to soak up the sun and my hands to play with the winter-worn grass.
- I drank lots and lots of water.
- I bought myself some flowers (the hydrangeas below) to brighten up my room.
I think learning self-care is a dynamic process, especially learning how to glorify God through it. Also, it’s probably different for each person since we are each beautifully and individually made.