The truth is, when it comes down to it, I have not been terribly kind to my body. I have poked and prodded, examined, scrutinized, criticized, judged, and picked apart. I have stared with loathing and frustration. I have worked to form it into my own will through harsh discipline, self-denial, and pure determination.
I must confess, I have not loved myself well in this regard. In fact, I have not loved myself at all.
And then when I reflect on Jesus' words to love others as I have loved myself...well, the picture is not so pretty. I would like to think that I have loved others better than myself. I have certainly treated others better than myself. But love...probably not.
If I pick myself apart what makes me think this same spirit is not leaking over in my attempts to love another? Sure, I don't often stare in outright loathing nor verbalize criticisms on a regular basis. I don't pinch and poke and pull at others...at least not where they can see me. But I carry a critical spirit about me. I try to see what is positive and good and affirming...but the judgmental, critical, and negative always seem grab my attention. It normally comes out like this:
"Oh, I loved what they said - it was great. However, I wish they had... And I am not sure why they said... And I never would have..."
And there it is. My lack of love - packaged as common sense, constructive criticism, general observation. But don't be fooled...it is not offered in love...and it is not all that constructive. It is the same spirit that takes hold of me as I stand before the mirror picking apart each small [or large] flaw. As I berate myself for not trying hard enough, working hard enough, being disciplined enough...
But at 33 I have to ask, when do I get to be enough? When do I give myself a huge break and start loving the skin I wear? When do I start becoming grateful for having a body in the first place? When is enough finally enough?
I read these words about loathing our bodies today in An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor:
This can only go on for so long (loathing our bodies), especially for someone who officially believes that God loves flesh and blood, no matter what kind of shape it is in. Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, 'Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul's address.'...When I do this, generally I decide that it is time to do a better job of wearing my skin with gratitude instead of loathing."I keep getting the image of waving the white flag when it comes to this battle with my body. To finally put down my weapons of criticism, scrutiny and loathing. To make peace with this body...the one that my life has shaped. The body that carries my story - not anyone else's story - mine alone. To start wearing this skin that God crafted with gratitude instead of loathing.
See, I actually take Jesus' words seriously. I can be nice to my neighbor, I can be polite to my neighbor, I can even be considerate to my neighbor...but I can't love my neighbor if I do not love myself. Loathing will seep in...no matter how hard I try to keep it at bay.
To love my neighbor means I have to love my skin...and wear it with joy, gratitude, and above all love.