It’s not exactly the most spiritually uplifting work on earth, but the musical Hairspray does get me going. In the middle, the main characters, Tracy and Link, share a duet, “Without Love.” In his verse, Link shares these timeless thoughts:
Once I was a selfish fool
Who never understood
Never looked inside myself
Though on the outside, I looked good!
I can relate to that, although I’ve rarely thought about looking good on the outside. Although I’m not the perfect fitness blogger, the sort of person who went from an asthmatic 400-pounder to an ultramarathoning swimsuit model, I do look better than I used to. But let’s face it: I’m over fifty and decidedly imperfect. When I look in the mirror, I don’t join with Link declaring “I look good!”
That’s why, when Paul says, toward the end of Ephesians, “After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29), I have to wonder if he would hold to that thought in the midst of a crowd of body-loathing Americans.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and said, “I hate my body”? Granted this is more common among women than men. A woman can put on three pounds and feel morbidly obese while a guy with a protruding belly the size of a middle schooler might start singing Link’s lines.
Do people who look in the mirror and say, “I hate my body,” truly put the lie to Paul’s words? Do you, assuming you don’t have 3% body fat, really love that body of yours. The answer is that of course you do. Would a person who truly hates their body feed it and try to make it comfortable?
Except for a few people, everyone loves their body. The question is how that love is expressed. It’s like being a parent to your body. Do you express your love by indulging your body’s every foolish desire or do you make it eat its vegetables?
So go ahead. Look in the mirror and love that body. But love it with a true love. Feed it and care for it not to just to please it in the moment but to keep it operating at its best in the long run.