In early December, I was ordained to Christian ministry in the United Church of Christ.
While I’ve been serving the local church for four years in “official” roles, I was not yet ordained. The weekend was the culmination of a call that began probably before I was born, but in earnest about 16 years ago. I’ve been called to ministry for over half of my life. It was an absolutely beautiful, Spirit-filled day. One that I will remember forever.
I excitedly went through photos on social media the next day to see the moments that people had captured. I was immediately taken by a photo my spouse took in our hotel room of my best friend from seminary doing my hair before the ceremony. We were laughing and talking together. It was such a sweet, tender, beautiful moment. And yet, all I could think when I looked at it was how big my body looked (and, not in a good way!).
I’ve worked really hard over the years to love my body. I’ve never been what society would consider thin (except when I had an eating disorder, but that's another post for another day). It’s taken me years to accept my big bellied, wide-hipped self as just one of the many beautiful types of bodies that God creates. A couple of years ago I was tired of being told that fat girls can’t be runners, so I did couch to 5K and ran my first 5K. I’m getting back into a yoga practice right now despite the fact that yoga has been totally hijacked by our “body beautiful” culture as something only certain bodies should have access to. You get the drift: I do my best to care for this body God has given me, and my own health.
But, I struggle. Maybe you struggle too? I mean this was a once in a lifetime, long dreamed for event, and all I could focus on is how my body looks instead of the love and joy shared between my friend and I?! Wow. I suspect all of the New Year’s weight loss resolutions, and the recent headlines lauding Oprah Winfrey’s recent partnership with Weight Watchers didn’t help either.
We have just passed through Epiphany in the church calendar. Epiphany is a time when we commit to shine and follow God’s light in the world. And oh, how our world needs more light in the darkness y’all. So today, I am committing to shine that light. To start with me. To help me celebrate and love this body that God gave me just as it is right now, and to stand firm in the knowledge of the beautiful child of God that I am. Because that’s the best way I know how to shine my light for others.
Maybe you need these reminders too?
To the teenager who is staring at yourself in the mirror, thinking you are ugly, battling an eating disorder, you are beautiful and wholly loved by the One who made you. May you know that to the very core of who you are.
To the person who bullied kids whose bodies were bigger than yours in school, you are beautiful and wholly loved by the One who made you. May you feel challenged to flip your messages of hate on their head and tell others, too.
To everyone who has ever thought, “if I only lost a few pounds,” God would love me a little more (yes, Oprah, I am talking to you, too). You are beautiful and wholly loved just as you are. Right this very minute. No amount of weight you lose or gain will make God love you more.
To anyone who has ever been fat shamed by a church, a clergy person, to anyone who has ever been told implicitly or explicitly that God will love you more if you are thin, or the best version of you is a thinner you, I am so sorry. That is not okay. It is wrong. Let me be the one to say you are beloved, beautiful, whole, and wholly loved by the one who made you.
May 2016 be the year that we all claim our belovedness and rest in it together.
Light of the world, shine your light into our doubts, fears, low self-esteem, and fatphobia. Help us to love and care for these bodies you gave us, and to remind us that you don’t call us to be perfect. You love our messy, imperfect, selves – squishy or bony, fat or thin, muscular or not, bodies of all shapes and sizes. Give us the peace that passes all understanding to the depth of our Spirits and then help us to give it away. Amen.
Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath