Theology Thursday: Some thoughts on the Physical Body
Ok, so today is Theology Thursday, but I am not really sure if these thoughts I’ve had could be called theological… If anything they are more about the study of man then they are about the study of God. But, I believe that there is something that I learn about God through this realization. I believe that God loves the whole me – not just separate parts of me. I believe that God is about more than just saving my soul – He wants to save and recreate my body too. Isn’t that the hope of the resurrection?
With that said I share these thoughts for today…
As many of you who read this blog know I have struggled with some health problems for years and especially so over the last few years. I have tried a lot of different things and throughout it all I have learned a lot about the human body and my body in particular.
For a while now I have believed that a person’s mind/emotions can play a role in how they feel physically. In some ways this is common sense. We acknowledge that when we are nervous this can show up in our body as “butterflies in our stomach” or when we are stressed we will often complain that our shoulders feel tight. I have known for a while that there was some connection between my hormones and emotions and my health but it wasn’t until recently that I started to wonder how deep that connection really goes.
I’m started to notice lately that I can go from feeling fine to feeling miserable in no time at all and I started to notice a bit of a pattern when that happens. I have known for a while that my hives seemed to get worse when I was stressed or upset or uncomfortable, but lately I have been noticing that my nose gets stuffier when I feel certain emotions and my throat closes up and I get asthma when I am feeling certain things as well. It sounds sort of crazy but it really seems to be true for me that my mind and emotional state really radically affects my body.
In the past week I have had a number of different things that have been emotionally draining and I have never felt worse physically. I started noticing that when I calmed down (for example after doing yoga or after talking through the emotions with a friend and letting them out) I physically felt better – my nose would clear up, my hives would go away, I’d be able to breathe clearly. But, then when I would start thinking about one of the stresses in my life or start talking about it with someone I would tense up and my nose would get more stuffy, my hives would start to bother me, my breathing would become more shallow (often resulting in asthma). It was an amazing realization.
Then today I realized something else. I started to pay attention to how I mentally and emotionally handled things when my body started to feel sick. I noticed that I would feel really frustrated when my nose started to get stuffy, I would even get angry with my nose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself or someone else “Can I just cut my nose off? I don’t really need it do I?” I say it jokingly but the feeling is real. I get the same way when I have a breathing attack. I start to feel scared and start to say things like “Why is this always happening to me? I hate my body! Why can’t I be normal?” I realized today that if my emotions are really that closely related to how I physically feel then I am not making it better by feeling angry and scared and frustrated with my body – I’m just making it worse! And that seems to be exactly what happens when I start to have a reaction of some sort I get upset and then it gets worse.
So, here’s what I want to try from now on (granted it may be a process of getting to this place though)… I want to try thanking my body and celebrating it, even when it does seem to be betraying me by feeling so icky. Next time my nose gets stuffy and runny, instead of getting frustrated and angry at it I want to tell it “I accept you. I love you even now. What are you trying to tell me by getting stuffy? Is there some emotion that I am feeling right now that you are trying to communicate to me? Am I just not treating you very well or giving you enough focus so you are trying to get my attention? Is there something that I ate that you are telling me you didn’t like? Or something in this environment that is a problem for you? I value you and want to listen to you.” I know, it sounds a little weird to say that to my nose, but I feel like it could help.
My body is made by God. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I think for too long I have really truly hated a lot of my body and the way that my body is instead of accepting and embracing it for being exactly the way God made it to be. I think for a long time I have tried to ignore what my body is telling me and tried to negate it or drowned it out by taking anti-histamines (even if they are natural one’s).
Lord, help me to know and accept that you created this body of mine and that you call it good. I know that I would have chosen a different body, but I want to learn to accept this unique body that you have given me. Help me to see my health problems not as a struggle to fight against but as something to accept as a gift from you and as yet another way that you can communicate with me. Help me to recognize that my body and my mind and my emotions are not separate. You created me as a holistic being and every part of me interacts with all the other parts of me and You, Lord, interact with each part of me as well. Lord, be in my body. Teach me to hear you speaking to me through the feelings I feel and the physical ailments I experience.
Rejoicing in the journey – Bethany Stedman