One of the most traumatizing experiences of my childhood was the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Sit-ups for one minute. Push-ups without stopping. Thirty-foot shuttle run. Prolonged v-sit. Timed mile.
I still see Coach Wood clutch his stopwatch and hear the whistle. I feel the fear and push hard. I duck my head when Coach calls out my stats in front of all my friends. I’m not even close to the 85th percentile.
When I picture myself presenting my body to God as a living sacrifice, I recall the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.
Through gym and catcalls and illness, I learned early and often that my body was bad. My body’s skills weren’t good enough. The food it craved made me gain weight, and fat was an insult. My body’s desires would make me slutty. I believed in perfection. I accepted without a quibble that reading a girl-meets-guy-in-her-bakery paperback was on par with loose lips, and a vampire romance was at least as bad as loose hips. Sins of the mind are the seeds of the sins of the body, so virgins could still be immoral by failing to protect their minds. That’s problematic thinking, but it led to a strict self-discipline that seemed holy.
For decades, I thought nuns were in the 99th percentile of sexual purity while the rest of us tried to control our bodies and minds to get close to the 85th. That false scale with impossible requirements kept me busy with shame. Maybe that was the point.
Growing up, I was at odds with my body. So Paul’s reminder that by the mercies of God we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (v. 1) is amazing grace indeed. God who created our whole selves accepts all of us, just as we are.
What words of God’s grace help you when you evaluate your mind and body?
God, sometimes we dwell on the shortcomings of our bodies and minds. Help us celebrate your gift of life and offer our whole selves to you wholeheartedly. Amen.