Sunday, February 19, 2017
Getting My Body Back
A very vivid memory from my childhood often comes back to me . . . my Mom in the kitchen, busy with something, and me wrapping my little girl arms around her soft waist--the love that I felt for my Mom and the certain knowing that she was there for me, that she loved me and constantly gave all of herself to raise me and my sisters.
Wrapping my arms around that waist that had given--had been stretched and used and worn from giving life to us, to me--her beautiful motherly body that was not tight and firm and toned.
Something that has had a great effect upon me in my own life has been the way in which my Mom gave everything towards raising her children and walking transparently before the Lord.
Her devotion to Him came first--I remember her always with her Bible in the morning having her quiet time and seeking the Lord throughout her day, even though it was busy with children.
And something that had a profound effect upon me was that my Mom's focus was not on her outward appearance, but on her inward relationship to the Lord. This didn't mean that she didn't dress attractively or wear makeup or exercise--my Mom maintained a neat and feminine appearance and exercised when she could. But her focus day in and day out was in giving herself in raising my sisters and I to know and to love the Lord. The other things were secondary and she would quickly forfeit them if it was a choice between her children or her appearance, even to the point of not buying herself new clothing for lengths of time so that she could afford to send us to a Christian school.
My Mom's focus was on the spiritual and this played into every area of her life. I watched that kind of example growing up.
I have a personality that craves order and discipline. It's the way that the Lord made me and He has used that for good in my life. But at times, if I am not watchful, it can become a distraction from that deeper more intimate walk with the Lord that my heart truly craves.
For this reason, I have been very careful in the past with what I ate and making sure that I exercised regularly. I love to walk and so this was an almost daily part of my life, especially before I had children. I consumed broccoli religiously and ate in an otherwise extremely healthy way.
And then I had children . . . and as anyone who has had children knows, the body goes through extreme changes, both physically and emotionally.
Both of my births were difficult. I experienced extreme tearing during my first birth and faced a long healing process. My second birth which I chose to do naturally without pain medication took a toll on my body (looking back on that experience I would have chosen to do things differently now, but that is another blog post!) My son was born face down--in posterior position (in the Lord's mercy I delivered him without having a C-section) but my body was physically "broken." Again, I faced a long healing process and couldn't get my body back to normal.
And so, with a "broken" body, I faced caring for two little ones, 18 months apart.
I struggled. And I just couldn't seem to get my body back into that same pattern of order and discipline that I had maintained before having babies.
I was nursing, I was weak to the point where I struggled to pick myself up from the floor when I was sitting down with my children.
And I felt frustrated at times--honestly--frustrated that I just couldn't get my body back--just couldn't fit into my jeans that I wore before I had children. Frustrated that I just couldn't seem to get it under control.
I, me, my body.
Until the Lord spoke to me, quietly at first, and then with increasing strength--
My work was to focus on the two tiny souls He had given me--to raise to nurture, to love, to enjoy--to train up in His ways.
My work, as He spoke to me strongly one night, was to feed His sheep, and for me, this is to teach my two precious little ones, Deborah and Elisha, to know and to love Him.
My focus in some ways needed to shift.
And what I am not saying is that one shouldn't live a disciplined life, exercise, eat healthily, and take care of one's physical body. Our Pastor illustrated this beautifully in a recent sermon--he said that when we place the Lord first, when He is all in all to us, everything else falls into its proper order and place--in other words, through seeking His kingdom first, everything else will be added . . . when we place Him first, everything else falls into place.
This way of living brings freedom . . .
The Lord, and it is difficult to describe this completely, but a transformation took place in my heart at one point, replaced my natural motherly care and general love for my children (which I believe that every mother has) with a deep, strong, spiritual love for them. I cannot describe this, but He did. And it has been like a beautiful flower growing in my heart--I love them spiritually and I want them to know Him.
This has cost me my body.
The natural part of mothering in childbirth has cost me my body--my body will never look the same again--and it doesn't have to--who are we to hold on to this physical body in a way that rebels against any change to it?
Are stretch marks and scars really the enemy? Do we need to stress and fuss and fume and desperately grasp at trying everything possible--every trick, gimmick, and exercise technique to get our body back? Again, I am not at all saying that it is wrong to exercise after we have children (I still enjoy walking, only now I do it with my children!)--what I am trying to say is that when getting our body back becomes the focus, we have lost something of spiritual significance--the willingness to give even if it means that we can't maintain the "perfect" body. The focus is "off" when we cling to the notion that we need to be a certain weight or a certain size in order to be content instead of resting in the Lord and concentrating on His present will for our lives. Perhaps the real enemy is holding onto something that we need to be willing to let go of.
Our body is given in order to give it back--because it always comes down to surrender--whether or not we are willing to give something lesser for the greater--just as Jesus did.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. II Corinthians 8:9 NKJV
To give back spiritually --we give our body spiritually when we sacrifice what we could have had in order to give to another--a "perfect" body for the stretches and scars of motherhood, our time, our passions, our lives--for the life of another--for the lives of little ones, for the Lord's sake.
There is a character in one of my sister's novels, The House of Mercy who would have been physically handsome except for the fact that his face bears a garish scar. He is one of my favorite characters, even more than the hero in that novel. A deeply sensitive man, he marries a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock and takes her child as his own. He is a beautiful example of Christ-like love and his face and very life bear deep sorrows, wounds and scars.
Sometimes scars, imperfections, can be things of great beauty--can actually draw rather than repel.
Jesus was scarred--He bore the scars of the nail prints in His hands--nail prints of love and evidence of a body broken. Broken for us. His body was used for our benefit. We follow His example when we give our bodies for the sake of our children, or even for the sake of spiritual children, such as missionaries whose bodies have been broken down by years of fasting and toil and ministry. It is worth it.
I remember hugging my Mom's waist, her selfless, Christ-like giving and I remember that ancient truth that burns in the heart when we embrace it--we receive when we give. We possess when we let go. He who seeks to save his life will lose it but he who loses his life for My sake will truly possess it.
And this is how I have gotten my body back.
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