It begins, the event we’ve been waiting four years for. Down from Mount Olympus come the gods and goddesses of ice and snow. I will watch as much as I can, as much as is possible without a television. I watch for the human drama, for inspiration, for wonder----and all this comes. Such perfection! Such beauty! Such precision! I am agape. I am astonished. I am in love.
(“What is man that you are mindful of him? The son of man that you would care for him? You have made him a little lower than the angels and have crowned him with glory and honor.”) Yes, glory and honor!
But then it comes. At some point, all this glory and honor can depress a body. Can depress this body. For they are all so perfect.
And the other creatures I love to watch out my windows---the ones who fly and skate and swim and run with such animal force? Oh, their bodies, formed exactly and perfectly for each their place, and made one better than us----made without the capacity for dissatisfaction or self-loathing. O blessed eagle, otter and bear! Creatures large and small, creatures Olympian and animal, among you all I feel the odd creature out, twice over.
So 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? If we all just trained and worked out four hours a day, like the athletes, think what our bodies could look like! Aren’t we just colossal disappointments to our Creator, who does, after all, love beauty, speed, and grace?
And then, I find this: New York photographer Howard Shatz photographed 125 of the world's most elite athletes, each one an Olympian. Here is a sample. Look:
Maybe perfection is more varied than I thought . ... ???
And then I remember the fin whales, our daily neighbors. They’re not photogenic. They don’t spyhop or breach or enter the air with any sort of drama, just a slow serpentine arc from water to air, then the curling dive, like ships sinking into the deep.
They're monstrously slow, these whales. Not spectacular. And their skin is mottled. Almost ugly.
And I remember the littering of sparrows about our house---poor little, common thing, each one just like her sister, a thousand for a penny.
But I know God loves the whale, the sparrow, the sea lion, the bear, the weightlifter, the runner, the gymnast. I simply look at them and see it---a Creator's love for his own.
And us? Us!! Do you remember that He not only formed and shaped these bodies before they saw light, but 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, however ravishing or plain. For this is how we know Him. 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---in all of this 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. Yes, we will always wrestle with our shape, our age, our vast imperfections, which feel as though they sink us like whales. But, like the whales, no matter how deep we dive, 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 our bodies are His: Loved, beautiful, spirit-indwelt, and named "very good."