We Have Perfect Bodies
“I have a perfect body, though sometimes I forget. I have a perfect body because my eyelashes catch my sweat.” These beautiful and somewhat silly words come from a song by Regina Spektor, and have often spoken to me in times when I despise my body. Like many in this room, I have dealt with body image issues, as well as injuries and illnesses which have kept my body from performing in the way I feel that it should. I spent the past couple weeks recovering from a lower back injury (you may have seen me walking around campus with my trusty lumbar pillow this week). As I recovered I contemplated this passage I would be preaching on today. Regina Spektor’s song speaks to me because it takes the tiniest detail about our bodies, our eyelashes, and declares that we have perfect bodies because of what they just naturally do. I affirm her lyrics, and add to them the declaration that we have perfect bodies because they were formed by the God of the universe, and every blink of our eyes, every breath that we take, and every time we sit down and rise up, declares the power and love of our Creator.
In our passage for today the Psalmist speaks of a God that is cosmic and powerful, and at the same time intimate and relational, intricately aware of our every tiny physical detail. God is both the one whose thoughts are more vast than the sand, and the one who knows when we make the simplest of movements, to sit or stand. Our bodies are not an after thought, a shell for our souls. Our bodies have been intricately and purposefully formed by God.
Friends, while God created our bodies and cares for them, we live in a world that constantly hurts them. Black bodies are shot by the very people entrusted with their protection. Trans bodies are murdered and then erased from our collective conscious. Female bodies are sexually assaulted and then told they are to blame. Disabled bodies are not taken into account in the building of structures and cities. Elderly bodies are treated as a burden. Black and Brown bodies are incarcerated at alarming rates. The bodies of undocumented immigrants are in constant danger of deportation and separation from their families. Fat bodies are shamed and stigmatized. Homeless bodies are pushed to the geographic margins of society. And it feels as though every body is in danger of being the next victim of a mass shooting, whether you are a student at school, out dancing with friends, or enjoying a concert.
Not only do our bodies experience immense physical suffering, they are often our biggest source of anxiety. Society has given us the mold of the perfect body and we will go to any length possible to fit that mold, regardless of whether it is good for us or not. We are like the step sisters in the original Cinderella who are willing to chop off their toes just to fit in the glass slipper. We forget that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator, and go to great lengths to remake ourselves because we believe the lie that our bodies aren’t good enough.
Not only are we are not taught to love our bodies, some of us attempt to forget our bodies altogether, instead focusing only on our minds. Here at Princeton Theological Seminary, we spend hours, and days, and weeks, and years, increasing our intellectual knowledge, but we forget that know nothing outside of our own unique bodily experiences. We pull all-nighters finishing that last midterm, surviving mostly on coffee, and…coffee, and ignore the toll it takes on our bodies. Why, then, do we so often separate our body from our mind? The Psalmist weaves body and mind together, speaking of a God who formed her body, knows when she sits and rises, and at the same time knows her thoughts from far away. Her mind and body are inextricably linked.
Friends, if you have resonated with any of this, I have good news for you. The God of the universe, who created everything in the world created your body, and called it very good. When the world tries to tell you your body isn’t valuable, when you feel anxiety over your body, and when you have forgotten it altogether, remember that God created your body, and it is perfect.
Just as God made Adam out of the dust, God knitted you together in your mother’s womb. The Psalmist is not trying to convey a scientific explanation for how we came to be, but is proclaiming through imagery and poetry the goodness of a God who so intimately knows and cares for us. When we feel as though our bodies have been hidden, God sees them. The Psalmist declares that God’s eyes have beheld even our unformed substance. God created, knows, and loves every tiny detail about us, down to our eyelashes.
God is deeply concerned with bodily experience. So much so, that God became flesh in Jesus and dwelt among us in a physical body. Jesus’ body experienced the goodness of life. He ate delicious meals surrounded by friends, walked by the shore of the sea of Galilee and smelled the fresh water, shared a warm embrace, laid his hands over the eyes of a blind man to make him see, and even reclined to take a well deserved nap. His body also experienced immense suffering—being beaten within an inch of his life, and ultimately died a painful death on a cross. And yet, knowing all that his body would endure, Jesus still became flesh. But the story does not end with death, because Jesus rose on the third day, in a body—a body marked by the wounds of the cross, yes, but nonetheless perfect.
Friends, when the world tries to tell you your body is wrong, when you experience anxiety from feelings of bodily inadequacy, or when you forget your body altogether, remember that God created and loves your body, wounds and all. Your body is perfect, because your eyelashes catch your sweat.