I recently began reading a book by psychologist Suzie Orbach called Bodies, which is about Western society’s current crisis in our relationship to our physical bodies. Dr. Orbach observes that most people seem to despise some part of their body, do not feel comfortable in their bodies, and want to change some aspect of their physicality. In this book, Dr. Orbach speaks about some of the expected reasons for this current “crisis of body”: rigid and unattainable societal standards for what is the “right” kind of body, marketing campaigns aimed to make people dissatisfied with their bodies (and to stir up hunger to buy “needed” stuff), and values that emphasize endless pleasure and the need for perfection.
Dr. Orbach continued to discuss how people can grow uneasy or hateful of their bodies through the kind of touch or lack of touch they have received. Some received neglectful, abusive, or simply anxious/ambivalent touch, frequently leading them to doubt their worthiness or acceptability. Think of how the stiff, cold hug or the weak handshake leaves a visceral impression on adults. It can make us wonder, What’s wrong with me? With them?
People become accustomed to being overlooked and undervalued, reasoning that something makes them unacceptable, and thus they reject their very bodies. Some people starve themselves to gain control or overindulge to find comfort. Others may hurt themselves, preferring pain to confirm they are truly alive. While not everyone experiences these problems, most people want to trim off or alter at least one aspect of their body.
As I think about these dark realities, 1 Corinthians 12 comes to mind. This passage speaks about the body of Christ, God’s beloved church.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ (v. 12). . . if the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? But in fact, God has placed the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (vv. 17-18) . . . those parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor (vv. 22-23) . . . but God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it ”(vv. 24-26).
We will keep this “body,” the church, forever. God loves his Bride’s body. All of it. How lovely it is to page through the Bible and see all the ways Christ made his church worthy through his radical acceptance, bandaging of wounds and sacrificial love.
My thoughts ended with some questions. How can our dissatisfaction with NFC not having our own version our “ideal church body” turn into scorn for one another? Just like with our physical bodies, criticism and condemnation does not work in the church body. You could say that Jesus condemned condemnation. Therefore, what kind of touch, protection, affirmation, or encouragement can we offer to care for and build the body?
Tyler Gerdin began attending Newberg Friends in 2009 when he moved to Oregon to begin GFU’s Psy.D. program. After a brief stint away, he is back and serving at NFC in the Young Adult Sunday school class and the elders committee. He was thrilled to marry Eileen (Hassett) Gerdin this last September. They enjoy eating burritos with congregants after the Sunday church service.