It’s after midnight Thai time. I’m lying awake in a strange city. After 31 hours of no real sleep, our bodies are exhausted, but my brain…I can’t turn it off. The weeks preceding the trip were tortuous, blow upon blow, and my being is laid low. My friend, Paul (he, the apostle), experienced it, too, while in “the province of Asia,” being “unbearably weighed down and crushed.” In the Chiang Mai night, these words come stealing: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” And all week long, all I can do is follow the One…
This is a hard topic for me to write about. I’ve ventured into it before as I’ve felt the nudge, but I’d rather talk about kitties and sunshine and what impatiens I’m planting and the new shoes I want. Or, hey! What coffee I’m brewing. Almost anything, really, except this.
There is hardly a subject I can think of that carries greater angst for me than this. To be perfectly honest (and I may lose readers here, but I refuse to care about that any more), the churches I was born, raised, trained and taught in even into my adult years did an abysmal job at, one, even talking about the issue and two, actively and proactively teaching whole, sound, life-giving truth to young people who were desperate to hear it.
Further, it was a topic that was taboo, verboten in my family circle, and so what was left instead was a pervading sense of shame, condemnation, disgust, contempt and a great deal of fear. Toxic soup for a girl with an over-sensitive conscience and a Niagara Falls of emotions.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I was all grown up that I began to worry or suffer angst over my physical frame. I’m not sure why that was; it just ‘was.’ It was my poor husband, then, who was left to deal with this wounded, confused, hurting girl who didn’t know the ‘why’ for all her feelings and hangups about her body and sexuality in general.
I didn’t know how much it hurt him when I would put myself down. When I’d spew contempt about how I compared (or didn’t) to others that I thought were more lovely with perfect bodies.
“When you do that, you’re saying that I didn’t know what I was doing when I chose you. You’re saying that I didn’t make a good choice. You are questioning my intelligence (my paraphrases),” he would say.
Whoa. I didn’t mean to say that at all, but to him, that’s exactly what I was saying.
There are so many strands, aren’t there, girls, to our perception of our own bodies? Self-hatred. Other-hatred. Feeling ‘less than.’ Feeling ‘too much.’ Feeling worthless. Shame-full-ness. Fear-full-ness. Feeling threatened in the presence of certain women.
So much pain. So much…so much…
On a glorious spring day, I’m walking down our country road, giving thanks for the wind in my face, the sun on my skin, the fresh springtime breezes filling my lungs, and I am talking. Or rather, I’m listening. And all at once, I hear this.
“Today, what I want you to know is that your physical frame, the one you have today, the one that Papa handcrafted, it’s acceptable. It’s wonderful. I want you to receive it.”
In my low, quiet place, I say, “You know I cannot work right now. Can’t work ON anything right now.”
And like that, I remember the Word in Chiang Mai, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Ah, yes. All I must do is simply follow. And then the picture that came, too, in Chiang Mai. Of a Shepherd’s back, me behind it. Him leading as I follow. No working. No striving. Just the following.
“I don’t want you to work.” It’s the Shepherd. “All I’m asking is that you receive the one that you have, the one Papa made.”
Just receive it.
For a very complex, emotionally-charged, many-layered issue, I see that healing can start right here…that we receive the skin we’re in. The body we have. The one that we live in.
In that receiving, there’s peace. And on the heels of that peace, our healing will come.
Yes, bring that.