This morning I sat in a skiff among whales, fin whales, the second largest whales in the world, as long as 90 feet, weighing as much as 75 tons, second only to the blue whale. They're not photogenic. They don't spyhop or breach or enter the air with any sort of drama, just a slow serpantine arc from water to air, then the blast of the spout and the suck of oxygen, then the curving dive below, like ships sinking into the deep.
I love their overwhelming elephantine bodies, the very size and shape of awe itself.
This week the news magazine delivered all the way out to our island brought me glimpses of some of the Olympic hopefuls, their bodies sleek, their forms perfected to the performance of their sport. Much of the world will watch them swim and run and dive and leap with eyes as rapt upon their bodies as ours this morning on the whales. We will all be astonished, nearly in love.
But tonight when I wash my face in the basin and peer into the mirror, I will not be awed by my face or body. Not its size, not its shape, not its performance. In the Olympic season, and on an island where every iris, vole and eagle is beautifully formed exactly and perfectly for its place, and made without the capacity for dissatisfaction, I feel the odd creature out, an imperfect spectator to a theatre I cannot participate in.
I am wondering, amid all this perfection, Does God love our bodies, our out-of-shape, aging, so-much-less-than-they-could-be bodies? The Olympics remind us painfully every other year of our potential: If we all just worked out four hours a day, think what our bodies could look like! Aren’t we just colossal disappointments to our Creator, who does, after all, love beauty?
Here is what I have come to this week. God loves the whale, the leviathan. And he clearly loves the eagle, the vole, all the creatures that surround me with their perfect forms and bodies.
But us, he loves us, our bodies enough to inhabit them, if we so choose. He loves us enough to join us here in and through our bodies, however muscled or weak they are. In every breath that lifts our lungs, every bite we swallow, every landscape and face and sunrise we see, every mile we walk, every thought we wonder, we can know something of Him. Our bodies are His, given out of love, for our joy, that we may know Him.
As you watch the Olympics, don’t hate your body, as I am tempted to do. Yes, we will always wrestle with our shape, our age, our vast imperfections, which feel as though they sink us like whales. But we will keep rising,
to breathe again,
as they do, for in Him we live
and move and breathe and
have our being, our bodies.
And we are loved.