I’m not sure if the powers-that-be knew that it was Eating Disorders Awareness Week when they chose this past Sunday’s Scripture readings, but I’m willing to believe that God just works things out like that:
Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
-1 Corinthians 3:16-17
The first half of this little snippet of Scripture is empowering enough; your body is the temple of God! The Holy Spirit dwells in you! That’s pretty cool, right?
But then there’s the second half, which can sound pretty harsh.
And for a person with an eating disorder, it’s downright condemning.
Because at the heart of most eating disorders is a constant voice saying: you are not enough, you will never be enough until you weigh ____ or eat only _____ or look like ____. And just when you’ve achieved the goals of that voice, it will change the goals again and again, locking you in a vicious cycle of constant imperfection and constant destruction. Set that voice against the voice of a culture that says, “You’re perfect honey, just the way you are!” while yelling, “You must have a specific set of physical qualities to be judged as a worthwhile human being!” and you have a toxic combination. Perhaps Tina Fey put it best (and a bit crassly) in her book, Bossypants:
Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.
It’s not hard to see why those voices so frequently come together and result in women and men who damage their bodies to reach an unattainable level of physical perfection.
And then Scripture adds insult to injury by saying that that act of desperation is going to get you destroyed by God? It all feels like too much.
But, as with most problematic Scripture passages, there’s more. Check out the second half of the second half of that last verse: “…for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
The temple of God
which. you. are.
You are the temple of God. You are holy.
Are you hearing this?
Are you fully absorbing and comprehending what this means?
You. are. holy. You! Your body!
every bit of flesh that rolls out over your waistband when you sit down.
Every bit of your body is the temple of God.
Does it make you think differently about how you see it?
Does it make you want to treat it differently?
Next week, on Tuesday, March 4, ProjectYou is hosting its annual festival and fashion show on campus, this year called the ProjectYou BodyFest. It’s an entire night dedicated to promoting better self-awareness, higher self-esteem, smashed stereotypes, and positive body image for all members of our community! The Criticism Bank will be there to hold onto your deposits of negative thoughts, the catwalk will be going, and the Newman Center will be there with our PostSecret Confessional (What’s that you say? You want to know more about our PostSecret Confessional? Well, stay tuned!), along with other events, promotions, and tools to get you loving every bit of who you are. I’d love to see you there.
In the meantime, educate yourself about the realities of Eating Disorders through the National Eating Disorders Association website, and if you’re concerned about your own disordered thoughts on food, perfectionism, or body image, take NEDA’s excellent screening test here. Counseling and less formal, everyday healthy living tools like the SuperBetter app can help you recover or maintain a healthy view of yourself and your body.
Because your body is God’s temple.
And it is holy.
You are holy.
And that is beautiful.