In our culture, we value healthy bodies. My friend, Matt, has arguably the healthiest body I know. He trained for a whole year to compete in an Ironman competition — early morning swims before work, daily run workouts while his sons went to football practice, Saturday bike rides. He schooled himself in nutrition and physical therapy. As a culture, we value healthy bodies like Matt’s because they allow us to work, play with our children, and live long lives. As Christians, we steward our bodies so we can serve and worship our Lord, but what does that mean for those of us with bodies that aren’t healthy?
I have never had a body like Matt’s. The body God gave me is weak and clumsy. Poor hearing has caused balance issues for me, proven by the scar on my right knee when I had tripped over first base in junior high P.E. Yes, I was that kid. The wheezing sound coming from my lungs was such a concern for my high school P.E. teacher that she feared I’d stop breathing at some point during the mile run and would jog with me the whole way. The only success I had in high school P.E. was holding my breath underwater the longest, although I’ve always wondered if the other girls just didn’t try.
No matter how much time I’ve spent on a treadmill or in a lap pool, I’ve remained the weakest person in every group. It is disheartening and no fun to be that person. Often, it’s led me to question, Does my weakness mean I am unhealthy?
Last year, I collapsed at a park when my body failed me in a new way. The blood vessels in my lungs burst. It took multiple surgeries to save my life. I spent months gaining back enough strength to take a shower by myself and walk to the mailbox. I was weak but alive. I was grateful for the breath in my lungs. And I began wrestling with new versions of those questions I used to ask myself: How do I steward a broken body, and how should I define “healthy”?
What if a healthy body isn’t defined by run times or ideal weights? What if a healthy body is instead defined by how well it reflects God’s glory and how it goes about completing the tasks God prepared for it?
Psalm 139:13-14 reads,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
God purposefully created broken places in my body. In other words, the brokenness isn’t a mistake. When I accept my brokenness as “wonderfully made,” I can more fully reflect the glory of my Creator.
So, not only was my body created the way it is on purpose, it was also created for a purpose.
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” My body was created for a specific work that was planned for me to do. Whatever the work, my Creator enabled my body to do it, and when I do the work planned for me, I glorify God. That is the very definition of good work.
During the months I spent in bed recovering, I began to see that as long as I have breath in my lungs, there is still work God has prepared for me to do. And since this is the body He created me to do it in, I must be healthy enough to do it. This new perspective changed everything. I redefined “healthy” as being able to wake up each day, no matter how weak, and say, “Get up, Nicole, to do the work you were created to do today.”
My life runs at a slower pace now, a pace my broken lungs can keep up with. Before my collapse, I was leading a Bible study for young adults, but I had to leave that group though my desire to lead didn’t leave. My new pace has given me time to study and practice the spiritual disciplines, something I had always wanted to do. In time, I’ve begun leading friends in the practice of solitude — a way to lead that my lungs could handle.
I also found new ways to worship my Creator. Multiple surgeries left me with a scratchy voice and poor breath control. Before my surgeries, whenever my heart was moved to worship, it was always song that poured out. I loved to sing. After my surgeries, I needed to find a new way to worship and discovered a new-to-me love of flowers. A dear friend helped plant roses in my yard and taught me to care for them. When those roses bloom, my heart stirs in the same way it used to when I’d sing. Gardening has become a new way to worship my Creator.
While I haven’t been able to glorify God on the race course like Matt, I have found new ways to glorify God within the limits of my weaker body. My body may look unhealthy by our culture’s standard, but it is still useful for kingdom work, useful for reflecting the glory of the One who sustains me, and that is what a healthy body truly is.
God purposefully created broken places in my body. In other words, the brokenness isn’t a mistake. -Nicole O'Meara: Click To Tweet