Often those of us from Western cultures (and probably others too) think that if we think hard enough about it, that our bodies will follow our instructions.
“I think therefor I am”: I think I will not get sick, therefore I will not. I think I will not grow another pimple, therefore I won’t. I think I will lose weight, therefore I will.
I think if I change my body, I will feel better about myself. I don’t think I will get addicted, therefore I won’t. If I think hard enough, my body will fall in line, will do what I want it to.
This separation of our minds and thoughts from our bodies dates back to Ancient Greek philosophy and carries throughout western history as it changes over time to what we have today. It affects us so often that we hardly notice it.
We hardly notice until, that is, when we’re sick and saying things like, “don’t worry Boss, I’ll for sure be better tomorrow for work”, or “I’ll make it to the game tonight, I know I’ll get better by then”, or “my kid is sick but I’m not planning on getting sick though.”
That’s just not how it works. Of course there are things that we can do that help our bodies be as healthy as they can be: we can appropriately exercise, we can take vitamin C and wash our hands, we can monitor our alcohol or refuse to start smoking as to not become addicted. But that’s just not how it works. We are not able to think our way out of germs and illness, we are not able to think our way out of how our bodies naturally react to whatever we put in them or on them. “I think I can, I think I can…” doesn’t work when it comes to what our bodies naturally are going to do.
“I think I can, I think I can…” worked for The Little Train that Could to give her the motivation she needed to get up and over the mountain and deliver the toys. But “I think I can, I think I can…” doesn’t change the ways that our bodies naturally are going to be.
Our bodies will naturally take on a certain size, shape and weight. From time to time our bodies will encounter an infection or disease that will make us sick. Our bodies will change shape throughout our lives, as we age, so do our bodies. Each of our bodies will age in different ways, but we can all probably expect to find wrinkles, sagging skin, achy joints, less muscle tone and strength, worsening eyesight and hearing.
No amount of thinking can change any of these things.
God created us each perfect and in God’s image. When we say that God makes us perfect: we are not saying perfect as is always right, we are not saying perfect by a magazine’s definition of a “perfect body”, when we say that God makes us perfect, we only mean that God makes us whole and complete. That’s God’s definition of perfect: whole and complete. In God’s image we reflect God’s character of love, grace and forgiveness. And being in a broken world, a world where there are diseases, illnesses, and injuries, each body, no matter who you are, will be susceptible to all sorts of changes, illnesses, shapes and sizes. Because of brokenness and imperfection of the world, our bodies are the way they are – for better or for worse. In God’s perfection, we are whole and complete just as we are.
The more we accept ourselves: mind and body both, with the love and grace that God has for each of us, the more we will come to love ourselves, give our minds and body grace to be broken, and be open to the Holy Spirit working through us for good in our lives and in the world – despite our brokenness.