As a former fundamental Baptist, this is only my second year of observing Lent. Lent, when I was growing up, was one of those things that Catholics do because they don’t really believe in Jesus (I don’t think most Baptist preachers actually know any Catholics) and so they are enslaved to law and to rules and boundaries.
I thought, as a Baptist, that I was so lucky to not be enslaved to rules like those Catholics were.
Funny, considering the fact that when I was thinking this, I likely had on a skirt that had to go past the bottom of knee and a shirt that passed the “two-finger” test. I probably wore a silver ring on my left hand that bore the words “True Love Waits.”
Sitting their with a beam in my own eye, judging the Catholics and their Lent, I could not see how bound to rules I really was.
How bound to rules my body really was.
“Don’t cause your brothers to stumble.”
“I was addicted to porn because the girls in my youth group wore tight jeans.”
“Music should speak to your heart, not your hips.”
“A Christian man will be able to tell if a woman is not sexually pure. A good Christian man will not find an impure woman beautiful.”
“When you give your body away, it is like letting someone test-drive you like a car and crash you.”
“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
“Skin is sin.”
These are the words I heard over and over growing up. Skin is sin. Using my body is sin. My body itself is sin.
These were the words which kept me afraid of the body that was mine. The body that was me. These are the words that made me afraid of the awesome mass of cells and energy and chemical reactions that was my body. These are the words that made me afraid of any emotional or physical actions or reactions that were considered bodily.
A need for touch.
I hid my body under layers of clothes. I crossed my arms and my legs and made myself as small as possible. I didn’t touch. Didn’t dance. I beat myself up whenever my body reacted to someone I found attracted. I heaped on guilt and shame and self-hatred whenever I touched myself.
And when I met my first boyfriend, and he began to treat my body like it belonged to him, I didn’t think I was allowed to stop. After all, my body didn’t belong to me, and I couldn’t use my body to fight back.
I carry over so much baggage from those years of disconnect from my body, from myself. Though I spent my years as a fundamentalist bragging about the freedom I supposedly had in Christ, that freedom was for my soul alone.
Not my body.
Never my body.
Yet, as my blogger friend Suzannah Paul says in this wonderful piece (made even more wonderful because of a reference to one of my favorite genres of music):
Our physical selves were knit by God to be wholly entwined with our spirituality, and the latter doesn’t trump the former. In the Nicene Creed, we affirm the resurrection of the dead. Even in heaven we’ll have bodies, and it makes little sense to live spiritual lives divorced from our bodily ones here on earth. [Emphasis mine]
So, for Lent this year, I’m setting my body free.
I’m setting it free from the hatred that I have directed toward it for years and years. I’m setting it free from any responsibility that the church tries to put on it for the sins of men. I’m setting it free from Platonic associations with the carnal, the base, the non-transcendent.
I’m embracing my body for what it is–one of the amazing manifestations of a universe filled with divine wisdom. Also, me. My body is me.
I’m loving my body for Lent. I’m letting me be me.