2 Corinthians 5: 6-9 (NRSVA)
6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
If you’ve seen the film The Greatest Showman, you will be familiar with the character of Lettie Lutz, the ‘bearded lady’ played by Keala Settle. She leads the other members of the troupe in singing a triumphant body-positive song called ‘This is Me'. The character is based on a real woman, Annie Jones. Unlike Lettie, Annie was first exhibited in Barnum’s museum as “The infant Esau” aged only 1 years old. The idea of ‘exhibiting’ a 1 year old child to be stared at justifiably horrifies us. But in many ways Annie did not live the life of a victim. Over the 36 years of her career, mostly with Barnum, she was known not just for her facial hair, but also for her musical talents and gracious etiquette. She was also often a spokesperson for Barnum’s ‘freaks’ and did all that she could to abolish that term from the business. She married, twice. These days we might think of her as someone who seemed comfortable in her own skin. She was also willing to lead others in recognising the worth of people who don’t fit ‘normal' expectations.
Paul seems to suggest we shouldn’t be ‘at home in the body’ but instead focus on being ‘at home in the Lord’. Of course, he isn’t talking about body-positivity or the lack of it. But he is talking about a longing for an identity and a future that aren’t dependent on the size, shape; relative weakness or strength, beauty, age, health, or wholeness of our bodies. A future that depends entirely on God. To that end, God anoints leaders of all shapes, sizes, colours, and ablebody-ness. We should do the same.
You created our bodies from dust and spirit,
imbuing us with a dual nature,
body and soul, atoms and consciousness.
You became a body yourself, one that was despised and rejected. You took Christ’s body through death and then back into resurrected life, and in doing so made bodies matter. You gifted all of our bodies with grace, including the familiar body I see in the mirror — loved or tolerated, honoured or disliked, depending on the day.
Help me to look with the eyes of faith, at my own reflection, and at others, that I might notice and value not the external housing but the inner signs of a spirit heading home to God.