Yes, your body. The one you think is too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too old, too weak. The one with the scars and the stretch marks, the wrinkles and the cellulite, the acne and the bald spot. The one you’ve long been wishing were just a little (or a lot) different from how God made it to be.
I get the whole wishing bit. I’ve done my fair share too. That wishing is only natural in a world that values the temporal over the eternal and quickly trades the old for the new. Everyone knows that this year’s iPhone is better than last year’s iPhone. Why should it be any different with our bodies?
Well, in sum, it’s different because the body isn’t an iPhone. It doesn’t lose its value when it ages or breaks. Youth, strength, or facial symmetry aren’t the measure of its worth.
Rather, young, old, short, tall, thin, fat, your body has value because God made it and God loves it. It images him, and it expresses you. Your body is what makes it possible for you to love and be loved, to know and be known. Through it, you receive every gift that God and this world have to give. And in it, you experience every joy this life can possibly hold.
So, this Thursday, when you’re giving thanks for all the love, beauty, and grace in your world, give thanks for your body too. Forget about all that it’s not, and praise God for all that it is.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions. Pick those that apply and give thanks because…
1. You can run in the morning when the sun is new in the sky.
2. You can skip with a child.
3. You can sing. Loudly and off key.
4. You can sing. Softly and in key.
5. You can laugh until your stomach hurts.
6. You can throw your arms around your grandma on Thanksgiving Day.
7. You can smell her sausage and apple dressing cooking in the oven.
8. You can cook something too, throwing salt, garlic, and butter into mashed potatoes with abandon, tasting as you go.
9. You can ride the waves at dusk.
10. You can scale a mountain at high noon.
11. You can hear your children laughing behind closed doors.
12. You can create new life with the one you love
13. You can grow new life in your womb.
14. You can hold new life in your arms.
15. You can paint an ocean.
16. You can swim in an ocean.
17. You can drink dark red wine by the fireside.
18. You can dig in the dirt and help flowers grow.
19. You can harvest brussel sprouts in the snow.
20. You can wrestle with your nieces and nephews in your mother’s living room.
21. You can chase them too, running in circles, and tossing toddlers into the air when you capture them.
22. You can cry when you’re sad.
23. You can smile when you’re happy.
24. You can feed a child at your breast.
25. You can feed a friend at your kitchen table.
26. You can tickle your daughter.
27. You can kiss your son.
28. You can knit a scarf for your aunt.
29. You can build a bookshelf for your mother-in-law.
30. You can throw a Frisbee.
31. You can walk in the woods and feel the wind on your face.
32. You can rake leaves.
33. You can jump in the leaves you raked.
34. You can start a snowball fight.
35. You can pick flowers for the one you love.
36. You can knead bread.
37. You can frost a cake.
38. You can stand knee deep in the water and fish for hours.
39. You can twirl in circles on the dance floor. Or the kitchen floor.
40. You can skate across ice.
41. You can eat chocolate. Or broccoli. Or cheesecake.
42. You can lie in a warm, cozy bed on a chilly winter’s morning.
43. You can see Christmas lights sparkling through your neighbor’s windows.
44. You can play Mozart on the piano.
45. You can play Dylan on your guitar.
46. You can hold the plank position for a full 60 seconds.
47. You can teach a child to paint.
48. You can hold an old book in your hands and smell the years in its pages.
49. You can relax in a hot bath and forget about your day.
50. You can throw a baseball.
51. You can kick a soccer ball.
52. You can tackle your younger brother and stop him from scoring a touchdown.
53. You can score a touchdown.
54. You can ride your bike up mountains and past cornfields.
55. You can row a boat across a lake.
56. You can watch the birds chase each other through the air.
57. You can wink at the cute guy across the room.
58. You can listen to the symphony in a grand concert hall with gilded walls and crystal chandeliers.
59. You can do the Cha Cha. Or the Foxtrot. Or the Argentine Tango.
60. You can teach a Zumba class.
61. You can stomp in the mud.
62. You can brew beer.
63. You can play Hamlet.
64. You can watch Hamlet.
65. You can wrap your hands around wet clay, molding it and shaping it into a pot or a bowl or a plate.
66. You can build a playground in the inner city.
67. You can paint a room yellow.
68. You can sip Scotch.
69. You can hear the crickets chirp.
70. You can calm a crying baby with the touch of your hands and the sound of your voice.
71. You can climb a tree.
72. You can chop down a tree.
73. You can write a love letter.
74. You can slip a ring onto a woman’s finger.
75. You can hold your beloved while she cries.
76. You can lie next to a child while she sleeps.
77. You can sit by a dying man’s side.
78. You can wash a body covered in blood and sores.
79. You can hold a human heart in your hands and help it beat strong and true.
80. You can bake a pie and leave it on a widower’s doorstep.
81. You can go hungry, so that someone else can eat.
82. You can drive your neighbor to the doctor’s.
83. You can clean out your closets and give sweaters to the poor.
84. You can take flowers to your mother’s grave.
85. You can offer up your upset stomach or pounding migraine or arthritic knee for your friend’s baby, fighting for her life in the NICU.
86. You can feel cancer growing in your body and remember that this earth is not your true home.
87. You can sit immobilized in a chair or lay unmoving in a bed and be one with the God who hung silent and still on a cross.
88. You can hear your grandchild pray.
89. You can clasp your Rosary when your airplane starts to shake.
90. You can kneel in adoration.
91. You can lay prostrate in supplication.
92. You can see the history of God’s love affair with man written in stained glass and illuminated by the sun.
93. You can smell incense.
94. You can hear bells.
95. You can hear the Word of God proclaimed.
96. You can dip your fingers in Holy Water and trace the Sign of the Cross on your body.
97. You can grow in wisdom, virtue, and strength, when God pours out His graces upon you, graces that pass from body to soul by means of oil and water, bread and wine, anointed hands and wedded love.
98. You can speak your sins aloud and ask God for forgiveness.
99. You can look upon a Crucifix and see Love Himself hanging there, all for love of you
100. You can take that Love into yourself, receiving Him, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in Holy Communion.
101. You can look in the mirror and see the image of God.
And, besides the Eucharist, there is nothing on earth more glorious, wondrous, fantastic, mysterious, beautiful, precious, and terrible as that.
Again, give thanks.
*This is the third post in a series about the ideas discussed in These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body. Other posts include: “What the Pope Taught Me About Food, Sex, and God” , “What Makes a Body Beautiful,” and “Want to Express Yourself?”