Gnosticism, Shame, and the Human Body
So lately God has had me on a path to better myself. He has had me strengthening my Spirit, Soul, and Body. I have been good about watching out for my Spirit, and feeding it properly and fostering its growth. However not always as good on the other two. The last three years, God has helped me to tighten the reigns on what I set before myself in terms of entertainment. I don’t watch as much television, and lately not much in the way of movies either. But it has only been in the last 9 months that I have realized that I need to get the body in alignment.
I am fairly ready to admit, I am a big ol’ fat kid. Not as fat as I used to be, which is by the grace of God wooing me towards better health, but still not where I ought to be. I am now working at a gym, which means I am at the gym regularly. I am building an exercise routine that will help me cut the fat and build the muscle. But to be honest, this is not the reason I am writing this blog today.
I am writing this, because I had 2 mindset problems to overcome. I think many in the body of Christ have yet to overcome them as well. The first was shame. I am going to discuss my shame for a minute before I get to the second one.
My shame came from the way I looked. Society, Friends, Classmates, and yes even family have cut me down and treated me poorly because of my weight. The more and more I got told how awful I was, the more I began to agree with it. I began to come into agreement with those who told me I was a horrid fat kid. This was a lie from the enemy. I came into agreement with what Satan wanted me to believe. I would look at myself in the mirror and I would think negative thoughts, and on occasion I would verbalize them. The more I though and spoke negative of myself, the more the shame spiraled. However, my shame did not manifest itself through meekness or shyness. Instead I became a grade A top choice Ass. I was quick with the wit, and always ready to cut people down. I could make people cry with just a few words out of my mouth.
Now I didn’t cut down everyone, I justified it and said I was only getting back at those who got me. To be honest, it reminds me of this clip from the movie Madea Goes to Jail. (I just spent three minutes watching that clip and laughing while I meant to be writing this blog. It did feel good to laugh though) Eventually, God prevailed in his goodness. He wooed me out of my shame and taught me to break the agreements I had made with the lies. I began to realize that I am beautiful to him. One of my favourite musicians over at The International house of Prayer said it this way through his facebook status last night. “I am finding out more every night that God finds me beautiful beyond description.” Song of Solomon uses the phrase “I’m dark yet lovely”
God does not find shame in us. He doesn’t hate us cause of how we look, and this is not limited to weight. It could be short or tall, nose size and shape, your ears, odd birthmarks or other things that aren’t considered conventional. God finds us beautiful because he is a passionate lover and looks past the physical.
Now here is the side that seems almost contradictory to me. My second area of poor mindsets on this was that I held a Gnostic mindset to my body as well. See John Crowder has a great brief history of Gnosticism in his book, ‘The New Mystics.’ The Gnostic mindset basically holds the believe that nature and all matter is inherently fallen, and thus of no value. The only thing that is valuable is the Spiritual things. This mindset leads to two very different looking outcomes but both equally wrong. The first was an extreme from of asceticism. Wherein the Christian fasts and prays and abstains from things in and of the world, often to the point of hermit-ism and seclusion. This is not a Godly thing to be doing.Fasting and prayer, and separation from the world are good ideals, but not when taken to the extreme that it causes you to fail at the Great commission and Second Commandment. But this is not the mindset struggle I had.
The second outcome is a wild hedonism. Because the natural body is of no value, those who have been saved can wildly indulge in all forms of physical sin. This is where I failed. I am not saying I was going around trolling for girls and looking for sex. However, I was engaging in gluttony. I was eating to excess and killing my body slowly.
Allen Hood over at IHOP-KC is famous for his saying “God LOVES human Bodies” The problem is that God loved my body more than I did. God wants me to live healthy and pure. I did not. When I went to Israel I was astonished at how beautiful the people there are. I mean they are really, really, good looking. Why? because the Jews follow the Torah laws, which actually promote good health. Eating Kosher seems like a bad Idea to me, because I like cheeseburgers, and sprinkle cheese on my spaghetti. But I couldn’t deny that the guys and dolls over in God’s homeland looked amazing, and I did not.
In fact, its not just Israel. Most of the developed world encourages good health. I have noticed that the American Stereotype across the world is that we are all fat boobs. This is not good. I look at many in the body of Christ and I see people like me. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but a lot of the body is not in good shape.
My good friend Joe Gabbard often likes to say he looks like Jason Statham. While we tease that this is only because he is a bald white guy. There is some truth to his comment. Joe is not the athletic body type, and is not ripped like Jason, but he is trim. He has a good height to weight ratio. I do not have that same ratio, and while I do not intend to become like Hulk Hogan or my Power-lifter/Missionary Friend Bubba, God has been teaching me to love my body more, and be good to it. I am learning to watch the things I put into my mouth, and how many things I put into my mouth. I am getting steady with exercising.
GOD LOVES HUMAN BODIES, ESPECIALLY YOURS. Do you love your body as much as he does? or do you just shrug it off and say ‘God Loves me Just the way I am’ This single statement has been one of the most crippling statements in Christianity. God loves you 100% all the time, his love never changed, never fails, never weakens, and never leaves. However, God is always changing us. That’s why he teaches us not to sin, and helps us become holy like he is holy.
I hope you have gotten something out of this blog. Just in the process of writing It, I have felt my spirit strengthened and God has encouraged me to let me know I can do it.
End note :: Bruce, who owns my gym showed me a video of his younger days as a body builder. He looked insane, he had muscles on top of his muscles, and then more muscles. But he shared this gem with me. “When this was who I was, the mirror was just as big an enemy to me as it is to everyone else. It wasn’t shame I saw in my mirror, but pride. I have given up bodybuilding, because I know I could easily fall back into the pride of my own strength and looks, and thats not leaning on God.”
I share this to remind myself and others that one extreme is just as bad as the other, be healthy, but don’t give up God to do it.