Fearfully and Wonderfully
Emily C. Heath
I’m always amazed by the permission culture gives us to comment on other people’s bodies.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. – Psalm 139
I’m always amazed by the permission culture gives us to comment on other people’s bodies. Having been big my whole life, I’ve had a lot of unsolicited advice on losing weight from settings as diverse as a pay-raise negotiation at a former parish to premarital counseling. People love to be “helpful.”
I’ve learned to brush it off. As a gay person, I’ve spent my whole life being told what kind of body my body is allowed to love. As a gender non-conforming person, I’ve been told what clothing is and is not acceptable, and how my refusal to “dress like a woman” is a sign that I am somehow sinful. So, really, people telling me how to live in my body don’t get very far with me.
I’m always struck, though, by how much the fact that I might be happy, active, and healthy (really, I’ll show you my medical records) in my body was inconceivable. Despite the denominational slogan plastered on the church proclaiming, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here,” I’ve too often heard in UCC churches, “But you really need to lose some weight.”
Size-bias has been called the last acceptable form of prejudice. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know it’s still allowed far too often. I encourage ministers and churches to think about the ways they might be promoting the judgment of bodies. Do you label some “good” or “healthy” or “ideal”? Do you run diet programs out of your church? Do you talk about how you shouldn’t have had that cookie because you’ll gain weight while you’re chaperoning youth group? Chances are good that you are unknowingly passing on, especially to a younger generation, a message that God loves some bodies more than others.
I anticipate that I will receive emails about this devotional telling me how to lose weight. Weight Watchers, cardio, low-carb, no-sugar, gastric bypass. I’d respectfully ask you not to send them. I love living in my body, and am just fine, thanks. But if you would send one, I would ask you this: “What is it about my body that causes you so much anxiety that you need to fix it?”
The answer may tell you more about our culture than it does about me.
Dear God, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, and I am one of them. Amen.