Your Body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit

treadmillContinued from here.

I love the physical building of my local church. While I know the Church is made up of people, we meet in a particular building, and I have deep affection for that building because that is what houses the Body the Christ. As I walk through the doors, I sense the manifest presence of God.

Because my local church’s physical building is dedicated to the service of the Living God, I care that it is properly maintained. I’m a minimalist by nature, so I’m not looking for ornamentation like I saw at the Vatican. We don’t have gold-plated molding or sophisticated stained glass windows at my church. However, our church building is clean, well-maintained, and organized. I believe that our congregation honors God by doing whatever is necessary to keep the building in good physical shape.

The same concept applies to our physical bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as I would not allow my local church’s physical building to fall into disrepair, I am mindful of taking good care of my physical body as God’s temple.

For example, God created my body to need 8 hours of sleep each night, so I routinely go to bed 8 hours before I need to awaken. I don’t stay up late to get more done, awaken after 5 or 6 hours of sleep, and then drink 4 cups of coffee or energy drinks to keep my body functioning after depriving it of needed sleep. Just as I respect the needs of my local church’s physical building, I respect the needs of my physical body.

Another example is being mindful of what I eat to fuel my body. While I enjoy the taste of French fries more than the taste of carrots, God created my body to be fueled by nutritional foods. Primarily eating foods with no nutritional value dishonors God’s temple. That’s not to say that we cannot eat a slice of birthday cake from time to time, but if we want to honor God with our bodies, then we need to respect the needs of our bodies by primarily fueling them with healthy foods.

A third example is exercise. For God to use my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit to reach a broken world, my body needs to be able to do so physically. If I never exercise my body, it will break down and create a barrier to going where God calls me to go and doing what God calls me to do.

See what I mean about God getting into our business?

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

World’s Influence on Body Image

limoContinued from here.

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog entry, someone doesn’t have to have an eating disorder to struggle with body image issues. Society is set up so that most women fall short of the “ideal” woman, causing them to view their bodies as “less than” or “not good enough.” Far too many women want the proportions of a Barbie doll, but check out this article about how a woman with those proportions could not even walk!

Magazine covers show women who are already physically beautiful, and yet even they are airbrushed to give the impression of an ideal that does not actually exist. Check out these before and after photos of various celebrities. And don’t even get me started on the teeth whitening of actors and actresses on screen.

And then there’s the limited shelf life of a beautiful woman. We are all supposed to stay between the ages of 18 and 25 for the rest of our lives, which is (obviously) a physical impossibility. Many celebrities undergo plastic surgery to try to stay looking that young, resulting in all sorts of distortions, including a perpetually surprised look in their eyebrows (which have been plucked out and then penciled back in) on a younger looking face atop an older looking neck.

As beloved children of God, we cannot allow the world to define what beauty is. You were made in God’s image, which means you are beautiful just the way you are! You do not need to conform to the World’s impossible standard of beauty to have value and worth. If God wanted you to be taller, shorter, etc., He would have made you that way. God created you to be unique. Out of all the people who have ever existed in any time period since the history of world, nobody has ever looked exactly like you, and that’s a wonderful testament how uniquely God sees you. He does not want you to look like Barbie: He loves your body exactly the way it is.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace walking the red carpet by a limo. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Body Image Issues

upside_downIf you have been walking with God for a while, you have likely already noticed that God gets into your business. A relationship with God is not just about your spirituality, although that is certainly an important part of it. God is not only interested in spending eternity with you: He also wants to make you victorious in every area of your life on this earth.

One of my areas of defeat for decades was my body image. I hated my body. The cause of that hatred was the child abuse I suffered, particularly the rapes. While the physical act of rape only lasted for a brief period of time, the emotional fallout of the rapes left deep emotional wounds that plagued me for decades. Because my body was the door providing access to my deeply wounded soul and psyche, I rejected my body.

Just as my deep emotional wounds were inflicted through my body, temporary relief also came through my body in the form of an eating disorder. Whenever I binged on large quantities of particular foods, such as a bag of chips or a half-gallon of ice cream, the physical act of “stuffing down” food resulted in temporary emotional numbing as I “stuffed down” the pain.

Of course, when you overeat by thousands of calories, you are going gain weight … a lot of weight. The world is not kind to fat teenagers, so I was ashamed of my overweight body and would diet by restricting calories rather than by developing healthy eating patterns and eating healthy foods. I would lose weight, but then the emotional pain would become so intense that I would binge eat again … and then binge eat again to “stuff down” the shame of having no willpower … and this cycle continued for decades, fueling my hatred of my body.

Considering we were made in God’s image, God does not want us hating our bodies as I did. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we dishonor God when we hate them. However, simply knowing this won’t make you magically love your body, so I’d like to share my own journey in the hopes of leading anyone with body image issues to freedom in this area. Because God healed me, I know He can heal you as well!

I previously wrote a series on eating disorders, which can be helpful for other types of addictions. However, this series focuses specifically on body image, which is an issue for many people (particularly women) even without an eating disorder.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace flipping upside down. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Seeing Through Holy Eyes

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One might assume that as I have grown holier in particular areas of my life, I must now be judgmental of those who are not. The opposite has actually turned out to be true. For example, when I hear women talking about how unhappy they are in their marriages, I feel sad because I can see how their complaints are a reflection of areas of unholiness in their marriage, and I know how painful that is. I also know that they must first be ready to begin working the holiness planted inside of them to move it to the outside so it bears fruit, and only God knows when they are ready. If I try to tell them how to live their lives in judgment, my words will be counterproductive.

I find myself engaging in more prayer for those around me who are struggling in areas where I once struggled. When I sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I’ll share my own story. Only if they ask to do make any suggestions. As an example, when people complain to me about their marriages and I sense the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I’ll share my story, which includes how God used Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick’s The Love Dare to help heal my marriage, and if they seem interested, I’ll offer to buy a copy of the book for them. It’s up to them whether or not to read or work through the book, just as it was up to me when I was in a similar place.

True holiness is the opposite of judgment. It enables you to see clearly enough to see the speck in someone’s eye because you have already removed the plank out of yours. And because you know how painful it was to remove the plank, you feel tenderness, compassion, and empathy for the one with a splinter.

[Graphic: Cover of The Love Dare. Courtesy Amazon.]

Holiness in My Everyday Life

lovedContinued from here.

As I have grown to love God more, I find myself wanting to please Him more. I know that it pleased God for me to obey Him, so I have made the decision to do what he tells me to do, even when I don’t want to do it or fear that I cannot do it. This has resulted in me doing things that bless other people. In some cases, it really annoys them, such as my choice not to speed when I drive.

Working God’s holiness to the outside has come in many forms in my life, and it has thankfully been a gradual process. I use the example of a dimmer switch for what this process has been like. At first, God illuminated my heart at the very lowest light setting – no more light than a candle would show. I made changes in my life to be more holy (to obey God) and thought I looked pretty good … until He turned up the dimmer switch a hair more and I saw more that needed to change. We’ve been going through this process for years now, and I still don’t think I could handle God turning on a floodlight!

As an example, over the past few years, I have made a lot of changes in what I watch or read. First, I stopped watching anything that was sexual enough to be pushing its way into soft pornography. Then, I stopped watching anything violent. Next, I stopped watching anything with profanity in it. And then I lost interest in topics that ran blatantly against my values, such as shows with characters with sexual storylines, even though the sex was taking place off screen.

I truly did not see anything “wrong” with any of those shows for many years. However, as God turned the dimmer switch another notch, I grew to recognize the unholiness and no longer wanted it in my life. I did not tell anyone else what to watch or not watch … I simply made the choice for myself that I don’t need to be watching people be murdered or listening to profanity.

I did not appreciate how desensitized I had become to violence and profanity until removing both from my viewing and reading. Now that I have, I’m very aware of just how violent and profane our society has become. A friend helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. She said I’m like a runner training for a marathon. Because I’m so focused on getting spiritually healthy, I’m now more aware when I am around unhealthy things.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with a heart over her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Holiness in Marriage

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One area of my life that has been profoundly improved through holiness is my marriage. In his book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, Gary Chapman explores the role of holiness in marriage. I have found that when I make holiness a priority in my marriage, I am much happier, and when I find myself discontented, I realize that I have slipped back into being self-focused instead of God-focused.

What does it mean to be holy in your marriage? In a nutshell, it’s living out 1 Cor. 13. It’s choosing to humble myself in my marriage, always asking what I can do to express love to my husband better than anyone other than God has ever expressed it before. This is not only in the big things but also in the little ones, such as getting a refill for him at a fast food restaurant when his cup is empty.

Sadly, our culture encourages a self-centered view of marriage, which is focused on the many ways my spouse should be meeting my needs. If he doesn’t meet them to my satisfaction, then it’s time to move on and find another spouse who will. What we fail to realize is that we are all imperfect people who are married to imperfect people who are incapable of meeting all of our needs. Only God can do that, and we harm our marriages when we expect our spouses to do God’s job.

I agree with Chapman that marriage provides a wonderful opportunity to practice growing in holiness and humility. Because God has joined the two people into one, what I do for my husband directly affect me. As I extend kindness to him, I extend it to myself. Conversely, if I am hostile to my spouse, I bear the weight of that hostility because we are one. So, marriage provides a unique opportunity that isn’t present in any other relationship to very directly experience the benefits of holiness or the consequences in its absence. My marriage has been a wonderful training ground for developing holiness beyond that relationship.

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[Graphic: Cover of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?. Courtesy Amazon.

What is Holiness?

questionContinued from here.

Before we can have a discussion about holiness, we need to understand what it is. I have heard it defined in different ways: righteousness … being in harmony with God … spiritual purity … refraining from sin … being set apart for a special use… My own definition of holiness is loving God so much that I want to please Him, not only in how I behave but also in how I think.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer says that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, he plants a seed of righteousness inside of us, but we have to work to transition what was planted on the inside so it shows on the outside. So while God sees us as holy through Jesus, our reality is that our outside might reflect something very different, and the outside is what other people see. As an example, despite God seeing me as holy through Jesus, I was bitter toward my child abusers for many years, which is what people saw. The seed of holiness planted deep inside of me remained hidden, and I was ensnared in bitterness that made me – and thus others around me – miserable.

The only reason I chose to forgive my childhood abusers is because I love God. God placed this question heavily on my heart: “Do you love Me more than you hate them?” Honestly, it was a close call. When I chose to obey God out of love for Him, I began working that seed of holiness toward my outside. God healed my emotional pain as I repeatedly chose forgiveness (forgiveness is a process, not a moment). As I changed my thoughts and actions to align with God’s will, I became more holy in the sense that more of God’s holiness became apparent in my life.

Now, I could have chosen to stay bitter for the rest of my life, keeping God’s holiness hidden deep inside of me. If I had, not only would nobody see that holiness displayed in my life, but I also would have remained in bondage to my bitterness. By choosing to love God and obey Him, holiness worked its way from the inside to the outside, and my life got better in this area.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a question mark. Courtesy Bitmoji.]