We had just finished dinner and the kitchen was a mess. I love to cook, but I hate to clean up after. Thankfully its getting warmer again, the longer days and higher temps a lifeline to parents of young children. Atticus took the kids to the backyard so they could get filthy while he did some landscaping work. Clearing plates I thought of my plan hatched earlier in the day: to go for a walk alone after dinner. I had done it before, I knew it was possible again. Especially with all the kids distracted in the backyard. No one would notice my escape. Now was the time.
Then I looked around at all the plates, pots, cooking utensils to be washed or loaded in the dishwasher and felt the familiar tightening in my chest that comes right before I let go of something I want to do, in order to do something that needs done. You know what I mean, right?
I sighed thinking, “Oh well. I better clean up. I can take a walk tomorrow.” Yeah, right.
Then something in my head, I’d like to think God’s voice, said:
Your body is more important than your house.
My body is more important than my house.
In that moment, something shook loose and I knew, without a doubt, that the voice was speaking truth. I laced up my sneakers and took a nice long walk through my neighborhood in the evening breeze. I felt free in a way I hadn’t for a long time. I started to feel that perhaps my body is more than the “meat suit” I use to drag my soul around. Maybe my body is something more than fodder for the highlight reel of everything I hate about myself. Maybe my body is something other than the stuff that skinny women’s nightmares are made of.
Since that night, I’ve been thinking a lot about both my body and my house. There are some parallels, or at least there could be.
We take care of our homes not because we want to punish them for being bad, but because we are grateful for them and the shelter they provide. Yet how many of us use exercise or crazy diets as a form of punishment for our bodies failure to be perfect, rather than viewing activity and exercise as ways to thank our body for the gift of carrying us through life?
We know this about our children, that caring for them is more important than our homes. There’s that old rhyme:
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Bodies don’t keep either. Our bodies are the paintbrush God has given us to craft our one “wild and precious life” as poet Mary Oliver wrote. Yet, how can we craft it when the brush is not well cared for? How long will a neglected brush last, and what kind of masterpiece is it capable of creating?
Listen friends, I am saying all this to myself, in the mirror, hoping my body will forgive me for all the years of hating her and ignoring her needs for rest, nutritious food, and movement. Exercise isn’t punishment, and if yours feels like punishment, perhaps your body is trying to tell you something.
Our bodies (my body) isn’t a problem to be solved. It’s part of God’s creation to be loved, respected, and cared for with an attitude of stewardship. This is not about weight loss, it’s about connection. Somewhere along the way, and probably as a result of the Fall, we’ve lost the integrated wholeness of our body and soul.
Taking care of our bodies, accepting them for what they are, and loving them accordingly re-establishes that lost connection. This is not about being thin. Thinness as a yard stick for your self-worth is society’s doing, is the Enemy’s doing, not God’s. Its fruits are perpetual dissatisfaction, obsession with comparison, and using food and exercise as punishment. Self-care is God’s invitation, and its fruits are joy, peace, and contentment with our bodies as they are, knowing they are well loved by God and us.
We are all busy. Some of that busyness is the necessary price of being the main caretakers of our families. And some of it is invented to keep us preoccupied with things that don’t matter, so we won’t focus on what does. To keep us chasing hard after Pinterest kitchens instead of chasing hard after our “one wild and precious life”.
Listen, no one gives a shit if your house is messy.
When you die and we go to your funeral, no one is going to waste one single breath talking about how clean and organized your house was. Not anyone you’d want at your funeral anyway. Our homes are meant to be places where we live and love each other, not museums to make other people jealous.
If you have friends who give you a hard time if your house is messy, find new friends. Really though, if we dig deeper I think the truth is closer to this: our friends don’t care, but we do. Because just like the size of our waists, we women tend to tie our worth as people to how Pinterest worthy our homes are. But listen, none of this is what really matters, and if we’re treating our sacred bodies like garbage cans so we can achieve this, something is very out of whack.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t care at all if our homes are filthy, or shouldn’t try to keep them as neat as possible. But home decor and cleaning schedules shouldn’t come before taking care of our bodies or our souls. Deep down, we know this. The times in life when we have been in right relationship with ourselves, we have known this.
That phrase – Your body is more important than your house – shook something loose in me and I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with you.
So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?