It has been a while since I took up words in this little series of letters to you. Maybe that’s because I was waiting for you. Waiting for you to be here by my side where I could say all the things to you in person that God put on my heart for you. Waiting to spend the mornings sipping coffee and singing his praises with you and the afternoons showing you more and more of what it means to be an imperfect but earnest missionary in his service.
I thought you’d be here today, Emma, with me. You did too. So many of us dreamed and hoped this dream with you.
And then your body said, “no.”
Your physical, incarnational self, the dwelling place of your eternal soul, the one and only vessel which God has granted you to live and move and have your being in, raised her hand and motioned “stop”.
And you were forced to listen.
As hard as it was to hear her and as disappointed as I know you are, Em, can I tell you something?
I am so very proud of you for listening to your body.
I have been here writing this series about our bodies for a while now, and over and over again I come back to the bitter pain of the many times my body has told me “no”— “no” to the natural, gentle births I desired to give my babies, “no” to being able to breathe life back into sweet Bryce’s lungs with my own mouth, “no” to carrying more babies to viability and holding them in my arms, “no” to pushing and pushing and pushing and not needing to slow down and seek healing, “no” to a form and a figure that exude health and fitness and all the things I imagine I should be physically to do the work I am called to do.
Yes, precious Emma, I know a painful thing or two about being told “no” by my body. And I have fought many a battle with the temptation to see “her” as something separate from “me”, and to force her into the role of betrayer and enemy to my spirit’s hero, with its desires for holiness and goodness and serving God.
But you know what I am learning in this journey back to an embodied faith, Emma?
That my body is not a “she” to my “me”, other from my spirit. I am one, single entity, body and soul, created to mirror the image of God.
And my body is not the source of the things that keep me from heroic holiness at all, my passions are. My passions—which lie within my soul–can be governed by my will and intellect which were given to me by a God who longed for me to live in perfect harmony with his will for me.
Recognizing that reality frees me from the burden of thinking I am obligated to hate my body, to see it as the decaying form that drags away me from the will of God.
The truth is, Em, that these female bodies of ours were hewn by the hand of God to hold his glory, and he looked at them when he finished layering them into being and said the world had all it needed.
Creation was only complete when woman existed inside the female body he had created to house her–her soul’s sanctuary, home, sacred space.
These bodies of ours, they will deny us things in this world, precious Emma. Things we long for with all our hearts and things that seem, for all appearances, good for us.
And yet, Emma, we must trust in their goodness as we trust in the goodness of the God who created them and called them good.
We must too trust in our ability to refine our wills to the holy assent that lets us rest inside these temples of ours, surrendered to the heart of our God and knowing he is at work in our pain and disappointments. Believing in his compassion for us, in his desire to draw intimately close to us as we suffer, and believing that we can be compassionate with ourselves, our physical, concupiscent, imperfect selves and call it holy, because he invites us to be merciful as he is merciful.
I am sorry you are not here, Emma. I think I might have longed for the day almost as much as you did. I am sorry you are suffering both the disappointment of a dream shifted and the physical effects of illness.
But I am happy for you, too, sweet one. Because you are taking care of yourself even when taking care of yourself is a bitter sacrifice.
Because you are respecting your physical self’s needs in place of demanding something of yourself you cannot give and doing more damage to yourself, thinking somehow your spirit is meant to break free from the prison of your body in some kind of weird martyrdom of disconnection.
Emma, I know your Father in heaven is so pleased too.
Let him weave you a new dream that honors you, body and soul, and reflects the goodness of the way you are made, him incarnated in you in a way he is in only you. You have not denied him that opportunity by insisting on pulling yourself apart—punishing body and to honor soul–and thus away from him and being the functioning part of the Body of Christ you are meant to be. The Emma only Emma in Emma’s body can be. The Emma with Emma’s voice. The Emma with Emma’s heart. The Emma with Emma’s strength. And the Emma with Emma’s weaknesses.
And do you know what? Right now, at this very moment, God looks at that Emma with divine delight and desires to love her with a consummate love, to take her as his bride and join himself to her so that she can be the highest form of herself, the purest, most clear reflection of his image she can possibly be this side of heaven, and then one day, the perfection of that image in heaven—inside your physical body, Emma!
And so my sweet friend, we walk the same road in different corners of the earth.
We, the daughters of delight and sisters of suffering. We, women after the heart of God, and covered in his fingerprints.
I am so proud to walk with you, Emma, even when our bodies say “no”.
Because I know that our Father looks at us both and says with profound joy, “Yes. Yes. Yes. That one is mine. I choose her. I choose to love her. Just as she is. Body and soul. Gifts and imperfections. What a delight she is! Yes to that one. To my precious, beloved Emma.”
Find all the posts in the #EmbodiedFaith series here.