whole: day 17

God loves flesh and blood, no matter what kind of shape it is in.  Whether you are sick or well, lovely or irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, “Here I am.  This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped.  I live here.  This is my soul’s address.”  After you have taken a good look around, you may decide there is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered.  Bodies take real beatings.  That they heal from most things is an underrated miracle.  That they give birth is beyond reckoning.

When I do this I generally decide that it is time to do a better job of wearing my skin with gratitude instead of loathing. No matter what I think of my body, I can still offer it to God to go on being useful to the world in ways both sublime and ridiculous.  At the very least, I can practice a little reverence right there in front of the mirror, taking some small credit for standing there unguarded for once.  This is no small thing, in a culture so confused about the body that most Americans cannot separate the physical from the sexual.

(An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor (38))

underrated miracles

Every single cell of me is known to God, is loved by God.

That is no easy statement to make, for I struggle with a poor body image, and have done for years.  Yet I am learning (extremely slowly!) that hating my body is firstly, ungrateful.  For all my illness and disability, I can still feel, see, hear, touch and talk most of the time.  I may be permanently exhausted, but I can sometimes read, I can sometimes pray, I can sometimes draw.  For all the tremors and seizures, I can sometimes sit still.  All these are riches in themselves, and bring infinite abundance to me, wherever my body takes me.

Secondly, hating my body goes against pretty much everything I believe about God!  If I believe I am known and loved by God, I believe God is with me – wherever, whenever.  If I believe God is with me, I also believe that God is with everyone else, with everything else.  In fact If God is everywhere, with everyone and everything, then that includes God being in every subatomic particle of my matter.  This body of mine partially embodies God.

The mystery and wonder of such a statement is mind blowing.  I wonder whether I can really begin to learn to embody holiness in such a way that I treat my own body with more self-compassion, and every other body with reverence and care?  For as Thomas Merton reminds me:

If we believe in the Incarnation of the Son of God, there should be no one on earth in whom we are not prepared to see, in mystery, the presence of Christ.

(‘The General Dance’, New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton (296))

It looks like the sky is coming apart and together at the same time*

And the body is holding its losses like a fist. And a fleshy hope

is opening to an unprecedented vastness. And whatever we think

we are leaving behind will keep insisting. And the things we desire

will elude us. And our efforts will pose as failure. And we will not recognize

how far we’ve come. And we will solve one problem and create another.

And we will feel broken. And we will not be broken. And the silence

will be deafening. And we will love destructively. And no one

will appear to be listening. And there will be too many doors

to choose from. And we will keep saying, “I don’t know how to do this.”

And we will be more capable than we ever imagined.

Maya Stein

The poet writes: * I have borrowed this line from my friend Karen. It appeared as a caption to a photo she posted on Instagram.

It looks like the sky is coming apart and together at the same time*


a fist & a fleshy hope. Canon 7D. f2.8. 1/100. ISO 640.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

One thought on “whole: day 17

  1. I find that times when I’m creating take me away, let me focus on what I’m doing rather than on the demands of the day, I hope your writing, painting, and photography bless your days.


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