My last two blogs (part 1 and part 2) have explored that our bodies can influence how we feel as men and women. The reverse is also possible. (blog links) I also shared about the battlefield we are on, having physical bodies and living as “engendered” people. Our secular culture prizes slim, beautiful and fit bodies—pretty exclusively. Meanwhile, our Christian culture virtually ignores the body keeping us focused on heavenly things. This crazy dichotomy can have damaging results in us—like eating disorders, overblown workout regimes and poor self-images.
We also explored some questions together—a perfect place to begin processing the beliefs we have about ourselves:
How have the following influenced your identity as a man or a woman—masculinity or femininity?
- Body Type (slim, medium, husky, ample, curvy)
- Early/Late Bloomer (Physical Development)
- Facial Features (Face Shape, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Hair)
- Athletic/Intellectual/Artistic (Temperament)
- Skin Issues (Acne, Scarring, etc.)
Often, we can live out of our wounds around gender and fears surrounding our aging bodies. What does it mean to reclaim our bodies and sense of masculinity and femininity? I use the word “reclaim” intentionally. There have been aspects of our gender, sexuality and bodies that have been taken, stolen or exploited. Many of us have felt rejected due to ways people around us judge our bodies and adequacy as men and women. What does it mean to take back that ground—to reclaim it? I offer some thoughts—none of them necessarily new or earth shattering, but each can serve as helpful reminders.
Finding Resolution with Cultural Stereotypes and Our “Symbols” of Masculinity/Femininity
Whether we like it or not, we live in a culture that has gender stereotypes and roles. They’re just ways of living in America in the 21st century. Do you conform or rebel against those stereotypes? What “symbols” do you have around what men and women do/wear/act? Are these helpful, or do they keep you from living in the uniqueness for which God has created you? There must be some balance in living with and beyond these stereotypes and roles.
Reframing Things/Activities to Gender Neutral
When you take a step back and really think about it, most of the activities we do are essentially “gender neutral”. Now I’m not advocating for living as “neuter” people and obliterating the reality of gender as our culture does sometimes. I’m just saying that most of our hobbies, activities and interests are neither primarily in the male or female camp. Yet, they might be relegated to a certain camp due to the above stereotypes or gender roles (i.e., only woman sew). I say, “Let’s take risks, cooperate with the gifts God has given us and become more interesting and full persons.”
Think through Your “Gender” Story: Healing of Beliefs & Wounds
Many things can influence how you feel as a man or woman. It’s a good thing to think through your own personal story. What was valued or not valued about men or women in your home as you grew up? What positive or negative beliefs surrounded gender for you? Very real wounds occurred—possible abuse- what are those things? How did you react—did you make vows or begin despising things in yourself as a man or woman? It’s good to think through and address these things—God wants to do a deeper healing work in all of us.
Acknowledging and Taking Care of Your Body
The first step in reclaiming the body is to simply take care of it. What ways do you nurture and care for yourself? What are things that give you legitimate pleasure? Are you exercising, eating right, and going to the doctor and dentist? It’s surprising how hard self-care can be sometimes. It’s easy to neglect these things in our fast paced culture. Our bodies are the place that God resides. Your body is a gift.
Mindfulness: Come Outside of Your Thoughts/Emotions
Often we live in the virtual world—always in front of a screen. In what ways can you come out of that world and be attentive and present to the real world? Are you present to the people, sights, smells and sounds around you? God has given us our senses to enjoy and experience the world. Take the earbuds out; take a mindful walk and pay attention to the things around you.
Think Through Your Body Stories: Healing of Beliefs and Wounds
Just as we think through our stories surrounding gender, we also need to look back on our experience with our body. What influenced our positive or negative views of ourselves? Did you embrace or reject aspects of your body? What did others affirm or reject? Once again, God wants to do some deeper healing towards our self-acceptance.
And it Was Good: Body, Gender and Sexuality
We live in a fallen world where something is wrong with just about everything. Christ, by taking on human flesh, gender and sexuality has ultimately redeemed what God has created. His Spirit resides in our flesh. We are created in the Image of the Trinity. God created sex. We are incarnational pictures of God and His relationship with us. God gave us gender and our bodies to enjoy Him and to live out our purpose in His world. What a great thing to remember!
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