These days, my body is unfamiliar.
The thing is that after having a baby, you feel suddenly skinny because there is no giant belly to rest your coffee mug on. (Just kidding. No, really I actually did that sometimes. Very handy, those baby bellies.) This feeling of skinny-ness lasts for all of three days when you try to put on a pair of non-maternity jeans. Your fat jeans, even. These fat jeans, they stop at your mid-thigh.
After you’re done crying, you walk around the house looking at your butt in different mirrors. Is it the mirror? Or is it me? Or maybe I left the jeans in the dryer for too long. That must be it.
When you finally face the reality of the new size and shape of your body, you spend some more time crying, then eat a bowl of ice cream for comfort that you swear will be the last before your diet to get back into your (fat) jeans.
That is pretty much where I am at the moment. I’m doing a lot of running, and trying to restrain myself as Rob downs a bowl of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream approximately one foot from my face. (I can SMELL it, people. The cruelty.)
It is in the context of this season of life that I read Psalm 63, and perhaps because of this that I got caught up in all the physical metaphors for the spiritual hunger and desire.
My soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
my soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips…
Psalm 63:1, 3, 5
My context for this is struggling with post-baby body and the corresponding desire for ice cream that I am working to deny. David’s context for writing this is being in the wilderness of Judah.
I have an excess; he was in want.
Yet unlike some of the Psalms where he spells out the immediate needs and wants that he has, this Psalm centers more on David’s spiritual hunger for the Lord. As though, perhaps, the physical hunger and thirst in the wilderness reminded him of that deeper spiritual need. His body thirsted in the wilderness (I’m guessing here–it was, after all, wilderness); his soul thirsted more.
And more than his desire, even, is God’s ability to fill that desire, to satisfy the soul as with fat and rich foods.
Mmm…fat and rich foods.
There are also a lot of physical, bodily ways that David relates to God. He seeks. He beholds. He looks. He praises with his lips. He lifts up his hands. He meditates on God while in his bed. He sings. Spiritual longing, married and mixed with physical acts of worship.
We are not just body and we are not just soul. The two are married, in what is often an “it’s complicated” kind of relationship. Down through the ages believers have struggled with this tension between the spirit and the flesh. Deny the flesh! Embrace the flesh! One is good and the other is bad! Both are created for God’s glory! Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, and oh yes–let’s do it all to the glory of God! Eating and drinking (and dancing) are sins!
Such people of extremes, say I, Queen of the Extreme. I waffle between points of contention in my life, getting rid of all non-christian CDs one year in high school and then spending years buying back the music so sorely missed. Being tightly wound about the law and then being downright gluttonous with grace.
David waffles and stumbles through his life as well, but in this Psalm, I see a lovely marriage. He is in the wilderness, probably hungry and thirsty, but definitely soul-sick, desiring the love of God. This spiritual longing is met smack in the middle of the physical.
My body may be unfamiliar, but it is not the enemy. Its physical longings (even cravings for Mint Chocolate Chip) can remind me of the spiritual longings. I pray that maybe they will awaken those spiritual longings, which sometimes seem so much less than my longing for dessert. My physical body can respond to the spiritual as I sing and praise and lift my hands.
My fat jeans may still look atrocious as I regulate food intake and force myself to run miles. But even in this can I worship, as I consider the one who created and designed us for both the physical and the spiritual. Not separate. Not as enemies. As complicated pieces of one whole, created in His image, to be bearers of glory.
May my physical struggles and desires be an integrated part of my spiritual struggles and desires, and may all be met and married in the grace of God.
Linking up this week with Stephanie Spencer and Psalms Journey. Come read some other reflections on Psalm 63.