Handle With Care | A Book Review
I don't remember a time when I've been grateful for my body. There are many reasons for this I suppose, some of which I'll likely never understand. Growing up, I played softball in grade school, volleyball and basketball in middle school and high school. I knew my body was capable of doing challenging things. I didn't think I was particularly skinny or fat, until someone called me "fat" when I was around eight or ten years old.
The first time a boy held my hand was at a football game where a friend had arranged for us to meet. We sat on the top row during the game, said probably two sentences to each other the entire time, and he never spoke to me again after that. I remember being certain that he must have been embarassed to be seen with me.
Around the same time, I grew increasingly aware of my "abnormal" body, having signifcantly different sized breasts. I spent hours plotting how to hide my body, making all kinds of undergarment alterations and avoiding bathing suits. I shunned touch out of fear that people would feel my deformed shape. I stopped playing sports because it was too painful for me to endure the locker room looks and the discomfort of running up and down the court. Finally, the summer between my junior and senior year I was approved for surgery. I expected to finally feel attractive and comfortable in my own body.
Looking back on my first real relationship shortly before my eighteenth birthday, I weep for the girl who accepted cursings and degrading touch as a given because of the body she had (or didn't have).
The perspectives I had about my body, and the touch I experienced during my most formative young adult years were filled with confusion and shamre. I kept my thoughts mostly to myself so there was little opportunity for anyone to offer me a different viewpoint or any hope. I had a limited understanding of what it meant to be created in God's image, and even less for how his declaration that "it was very good" when he created Adam and Eve applied to my body at all.
Now entering these mid-life years, at times I sense resignation rather than contentment -- the growing decay of my body, ongoing health issues, how it doesn't seem to cooperate with my efforts to change it, and the reality of a largely un-touched existence as an unmarried woman (thank you, Lore, for emphasizing the need to hug!). I knew I wanted to devote my attention to ministering to my own body with greater care and clarity. And as a counselor, I wanted to grow in my theology of touch and the body so that I can be a better help to those who are hurting. That's why I've been so grateful for Lore's work over the past few years. Throughout her blogs and now her book, I have felt understood. Not perfectly, for no one could accomplish that feat. But I feel like there is a space where I fit, a space to talk about things that often remain hidden. A space to process complicated thoughts safely and find compassion, knowing that I am not alone.
Handle With Care covers a topic that is largely overlooked in the Church today. We don't discuss body image issues or how we give and receive touch in our small groups. Whether it's our concern about stirring up impurity or a failure to acknowledge the realities that we are "whole" persons, we typically ignore the conversation and leave people to figure it out for themselves. We're like the Pharisees, turning our fears into commands, and in the process we harm one another.
Lore's book challenges the status quo and gives us discussion points for a topic that ought to be central to the Church's mission. If we want to love well and give others the context for an encounter with the Living God, then we will do the hard work of figuring out how God intends for our bodies to administer true gospel hope.
Your body brings
and faith says,
come with me;
I won’t leave you
Excerpt from "The Body Brings" by K.J. Ramsey