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Holy Spirit disruptions: Embodiment

Lynne Baab • Wednesday June 9 2021

Holy Spirit disruptions: Embodiment

My mom and her mom were always very slender, and my mom at 96 still looks great in her clothes. My mom had seven aunts on her father’s side who were all plump or significantly overweight. Most of them were also mean. My mother grew up associating being overweight with being a less than admirable person.

When I hit puberty and began to get a more rounded build than my mom had ever had, she started telling me stories about my mean, overweight aunts. I became so certain, deep inside, that being slim was virtuous. As a teenager, I loved Seventeen magazine, and the very slender models reinforced the importance of slimness.

I believe God has been trying to disrupt that perception of value = thinness for my whole life. I am finally starting to listen.

I have often used the language of “body image” to describe my challenge. In a recent article in the Seattle Times, nutritionist Carrie Dennett notes that “image” is not a great word, because it implies that what matters is how our body looks to ourselves or to others. Dennett stresses the word “embodiment”:

“Eradicating negative body image isn’t enough — you need to replace it with something positive. Body image research has shifted to focus on positive ways of living in the body, such as ‘embodiment.’ Being embodied is not the same as having low levels of negative body image or having high levels of body satisfaction. Embodiment is the experience of feeling at home in our bodies.”

I love this because the notion of home as it relates to my body has been such a big part of my journey of the past decade. Dennett describes some of the components of feeling at home in our bodies. Embodiment, she argues,

“puts the focus on how we feel inside our own bodies and how we experience the world as we live in our bodies. Positive embodiment includes body appreciation — having a generally favorable opinion of your body regardless of appearance — including appreciation for how our bodies function.”

Heartbeat, lungs, digestion, seeing, hearing, tasting, and feeling the breeze on our skin . . . all of these were created by a wonderfully creative God. Hugging, a gentle touch, a quick back rub, writing a post card, cooking a meal for a family member, holding a baby . . . our bodies enable us show love and connect with people who are important to us. The relational God in three persons created us for relationship, and without our bodies we would not connect. Even during the pandemic, our fingers clicked on icons that turned on zoom and skype, and we swiped across cellphone screens to write text messages or place phone calls.

As I allow God to continue to disrupt my deeply rooted conviction that thinness = virtue, I try to focus on the ways my body blesses me, enables me to do things I love, and connects me with other people. I am trying to stay open to further Holy Spirit disruptions in this area, because I am loving feeling more at home in my body than I used to.

Some questions to ponder. In what ways has God disrupted your perceptions in these areas, or in what ways do you think God is speaking to you in these areas:

  • how you view your body
  • how you feel in your body
  • how you honor your body
  • how you perceive other people’s bodies

“For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
   when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

(Next week: God disrupts pride/ego. Illustration by Dave Baab: me in Stockholm in 2006. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Previous posts about the connections between my body and my sense of home:

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