In My Flesh
My flesh and bones. Flesh--skin around my bones, muscles, cells, systems--holding my body together. How do I take care of my body, the stuff I’m made of inside my flesh, if the message I hear and have heard over time is that my flesh is bad?
For years, I mutilated my flesh, picking and digging to uproot something blemished, to get rid of that which was pimpled and swollen with imperfection. I still do sometimes, when I’m not paying attention, not aware. Now my flesh bears hundreds of scars, highlighting the very imperfections I tried to eliminate.
It started about the same time that my flesh—my body inside it—began to misbehave, to have feelings and sensations that were negative, wrong, sinful. I wonder if I had heard, or could have received another viewpoint about my growing and changing body? Maybe someone said it, but I didn't hear it amid the other blaring voices and noise all around me at a confusing time. If a truer word was spoken, I didn't hear it loudly enough that my flesh wasn’t against me, that I didn’t need to be against my flesh, that my body inside my skin was normal. Perhaps I would have hated my flesh a bit less. Perhaps I would have stood up for my body, honored my body inside my flesh a bit more.
Hear me, with your ears and your heart, lest you get an idea that I mean to sell an idea of everything goes because it’s all “normal.” That’s not my point. I’m saying that we cannot be disembodied. As a follower of Jesus—Jesus, born of a woman; Jesus, who lived as a whole human being, mind and spirit inside his flesh-and-bones body—I believe we must do better by people (young people, and adults who are still recovering from a shame culture within the church). I believe we can and must offer a wholistic approach, self care and soul care, in our nurture of folks in the Church. Jesus came to give us life, and as it turns out we live life inside fleshy bodies.
I cannot be my whole self without my flesh and bones and beating heart and synapse-firing brain. People are not people without their flesh—in all of the colors and tones and hues and shapes and sizes and builds with which God formed us. The beautiful and rather masterful organ called skin encapsulates our whole being; it holds and reflects the image of God. Our flesh contains the Imago Dei. Yours does. Mine does.
Be kind to the Image-of-God-bearing flesh you live in. Be kind to the Image-of-God-bearing flesh others live in.
*The Greek word for flesh used in scripture carries more than one meaning. See here. My hope in this reflection on the word flesh is to appeal to careful and more deliberate use of words, words that have not only become commonplace but have also lost their fullest meanings because of misuse and even abuse, however unintentional. This reflection is mine, based on my story, some of the shame I have carried, what freedom God opened and continues to open to me. Perhaps you might find spending some time with the writing prompt of flesh may reveal something new, may bring healing. Shalom to you, wherever this finds you today.