Birthright, Bodies, and Healing: Part One

Healing is complex. And some things change you forever.

This week, I heard a word in a new way. And I am changed forever.

Birthright.

The Lord spoke this word to me this week. Over and over until I paid attention. Real attention.

Before now, when I heard the word birthright, I thought of an inheritance or the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible.

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Birthright was taken so seriously in ancient days that even when Jacob tricked Isaac into giving him Esau’s birthright blessing, Isaac couldn’t take it back. It wasn’t something that could be given and then taken away.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

As I pondered this word this week, I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to get from this word, birthright? Why are you highlighting this word to me?”

And I heard this in reply, “Your body. Your body is your birthright.”

Your body is your birthright.

 

I hurt my knee in April, and I’m still recovering. I’ve gained 15 pounds and watched hard earned muscles wither as I wait for my knee to heal, even while exercising as much as I can. I’m learning to be thankful for different things, like not having to go on outings in a wheelchair, and I’m really trying to give myself time to recover. Trying not to beat myself up when I see the changes in my body. And rather than being angry and frustrated with myself and the whole situation, I’m trying to be grateful, to choose joy.

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I am not always successful.

Before I hurt my knee, I was just coming out of a six-year bout with a mystery illness that caused a tremendous amount of pain and a thousand weird little symptoms. I never had a diagnosis, just a bunch of confused doctors telling me to rest and work on my diet and maybe take an anti-depressant, the blanket diagnosis for women who can’t be helped. We must be sad.

Because being sad causes dry eyes and itchy hands.

I never took the anti-depressant, but I did work on my diet, and I prayed constantly, and my life motto became “NEVER GIVE UP.” In April this year, I could see breakthrough in every area in my body. I thought I was entering a new phase with my health.

And then, I hurt my knee. And in some ways, I have lost a lot of ground.

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The day I kept praying over the word “birthright,” I was also asking, “What is up with this body? Why was I sick, and then almost well, and then I hurt my knee? Something isn’t right–God, what is it?”

When I heard His reply, “Your body is your birthright,” I had to stop a minute.

“What, now?”

My body.

My body is my birthright.

And I had a sudden impression of the power of The Birthright.

A birthright was everything. It was every good thing a father had to give. It was everything a father worked to give his children, every blessing he could provide to sustain them all the days of their lives. It was a good gift, the best gift. It changed the future. It was meant to be used, invested, stewarded, appreciated, enjoyed, celebrated.

A birthright was everything. 

 

If my body is my birthright, it is a good gift from my Father.

My body as my birthright, just as is it, it is a blessing. It’s not less than. It’s not a mistake.

My body as my birthright, it is meant for many things. The investing and stewarding, I get that, but, enjoyed? Celebrated? Even in the state it’s in right now?

That was a tough one.

Celebrating your body is your birthright. Loving yourself, in whatever state you’re in right now, it is your birthright.

My body as my birthright, just as is it, it is a blessing. It’s not less than. It’s not a mistake.

 

I have been extremely careful over the years to never say “I hate my body, or I hate this or that thing about my body.” I hear other women say it, and the curse in that kind of language is clear.

But, what did I say?

I was quick to say that I needed to work out or eat better. I could see my arms or legs, especially since the accident, and the first word that came quietly out of my mouth was usually, “Eeeewww.”

In our culture, we equate fitness with righteousness, and we can be extremely cruel to ourselves in the name of stewardship. And in the religious church, “Loving yourself” sounds a lot like heresy to some.

We are missing the whole point.

I could look at other women and see their individual beauty. God is an artist, He loves diversity, different sizes and different shapes, and I love to see the different expressions of His creation in His daughters and His sons.

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I could be happy for everyone else.

But to myself, I was astonishingly  cruel.

Before I heard this sentence, “Your body is your birthright,” I didn’t realize how cruel.  I love clothes and hair and makeup and all the girly things.  I didn’t feel insecure or ugly.

But I didn’t feel like I measured up, either.

I always felt like there were other things I should be doing, adding more exercise, trying this or that meal plan, reading about color blocking or the most slimming jeans. Always, always, always thinking how to get this body “whipped into shape.”

Whipping our bodies into shape is not health. It is not stewardship. It is not investing.

Whipping is abuse.

But to myself, I was astonishingly  cruel.

 

A flood of images and impressions came over me. I understood in my mind that I should be kind to myself, that I should let my daughters hear me speak well of myself for their sake, that I should speak life over myself. Consciously and on the surface,  I did that.

But in my heart, I wasn’t getting it. God revealed to me the constant underlying stream of self-abuse in the background–underneath the conscious thought–word upon word upon word telling me in a million ways how I didn’t measure up, wasn’t good enough, the constant “eeewww.”

In my heart, I wasn’t getting it.

 

He showed me how I checked myself in shop windows and quickly sucked and tucked and adjusted everything and then walked away  thinking, “Well, that’s a little better. It’ll do.”

He showed me that I made up, yes, made up conversations in my head that other women were having about me in their heads.  How I noticed a woman nearby and immediately began to assume that she was judging me, that she thought I didn’t eat well, or thought I was lazy and didn’t exercise. And I would get indignant over this imaginary conversation. How dare she judge me, she doesn’t even know me.

Made up conversations, do you hear me.

This is true.

Crazy, yes.

But true.

And I know I’m not the only one who has done this.

In reality, that woman is probably not thinking about me at all. And if she is, if the conversations I have been having with friends this week are any indication, it is likely that she thinks I am judging her.

What an absurd situation, two women circling each other over cantaloupes, imagining the other one judging her. Imaginary hate from imaginary haters. Because. You know. We don’t have enough real haters.

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What in the world.

It’s got to stop.

Your body is your birthright.

Your Birthright.

When we see a newborn, we all look in quiet wonder at tiny fingers and tiny toes and say the same thing, “What miracle.”

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Can you even imagine looking at a newborn and talking to that baby the way most women talk to themselves?

“Oh, what a miracle. But, eeeewww, your fat little arms. And oh no, your butt is just ugly and huge. You need a girdle. And those legs? Ugh. We need to get you in the gym quick, whip you into shape. Yes, you are a miracle, but, um. Seriously, tiny baby. Gross.”

This is absurd. But it is what most women do to themselves constantly, all day, every day, and it is tragic.

Your body is every good thing. You are a miracle. You were that newborn once. Your Heavenly Father delighted in you then, and He delights in you the same way now.

Can you imagine talking to a baby the way most women talk to themselves?

 

God made you, fearfully, wonderfully, beautifully. He looks at you and calls you good.

Yes.

All of it. Your whole self.

You. Are. Good.

I wept.

I am good.

I felt light as the thoughts burned up in the light. I knew that they would try to come back, and I felt so good, I didn’t want to pick them back up again. I did not realize how much negativity was spewing through my mind constantly, how it was weighing me down, how it was constantly draining my energy.

The enemy is so sneaky. He goes under the radar. It takes Holy Spirit to reveal these hiding places to us.

I asked Him, “How do I walk this out? I don’t want to go back. Show me how to walk this out!”

And I heard again, “Your body is your birthright. Be kind to your body. Celebrate your birthright.”

Celebrate your birthright.

 

I think some of us sort of get this in our heads, but we have got to get it deep in our hearts.

Not just for everyone else.

For ourselves.

It was foreign to me, but I felt such relief and such love from Him, such gratitude, I was willing to do anything.

I didn’t know what else to do but start talking to my body.

“I’m so sorry, Body. I’m so sorry I’ve been so mean to you. Thank you so much for being so good. Thank you so much for letting me enjoy this life, have kids, eat food.”

I just went on and on.

“You are good arms! You are good, good arms. You are good legs, good, good legs. Thanks for letting me reach out and touch the world, thanks for carrying me to so many places. You are good! You are a good tummy, you are good hands, you are good!”

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Sometimes, I’m really glad there’s no one around when He has me do this stuff.

I stood there and talked to my body and hugged myself. And I wept.

We are more cruel to ourselves than we would ever be to anyone else, more cruel than we would ever allow others to speak of themselves in our presence.

It is not righteous to beat ourselves up with words.

It is not good stewardship to whip ourselves into shape.

You. Are. Good.

 

Health is Having Exquisite Appreciation and Love That Heals.

Health means doing things for yourself in love, NOT out of self-hatred. We need to take care of ourselves, but out of love and wonder at the miracle these bodies are, not out of disgust at all the ways we don’t measure up. Health flows from appreciating your birthright, not looking at yourself and saying “Ew.”

Your body is your Birthright.

It is also your birthright to walk in this body and enjoy it. Celebrate it. In whatever condition it’s in, it is your Birthright.

And.

Your sister’s body is her Birthright.

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Jacob and Esau were just one example, but their story is a morality tale of two brothers who despised their own birthrights, and both are shown to us as foolish, and ungrateful, and missing the point of the birthright. And they destroyed their relationship in the process.

Your sister’s body. Her Birthright. It is not a thing to be coveted or set a standard. Your father gave her this birthright. Your father gave you yours. Your birthright is not less than hers simply because it is different. Hers is not better or worse than yours because it is different. Birthrights are not things to be compared. They are a father’s best gift, individually suited to bless each child.

Your birthright is not less than simply because it is different.

 

Knowing that my sister’s body is her birthright, it’s easier to look around. When temptation to compare comes in, I say, “No. That is her birthright.” And there is a sense of honor and of being happy for her, as well as for myself.  She has her birthright, and I have mine! Birthright honoring Birthright. Way better than two ravaged women squinting at each other over produce. Beating myself up with whatever she got that I think I don’t have? And vice versa? That was not God’s plan when He gave us our bodies.

Body image may work like that, but Birthright does not.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

Your body is your birthright. Celebrating your body? Appreciating it? Not cursing it and constantly thinking how gross it is? Congratulating your sister on her beauty? This attitude is part of your birthright.

Birthright honoring Birthright.

 

When I grabbed on to this word, God started doing tangible things in my body. Next week in Part Two, I’ll share those things along with more tips on taking hold of your birthright and not letting go.

For now, ask yourself, ask Holy Spirit, “What have I been saying to myself deep down about my body, my weight, my age, my fitness level, my overall look? How do I abuse myself or beat myself up? Where am I walking in self hatred? What does God call me? What does He say about it? What do I need to say to my body, to myself about myself, instead?”

Pay attention this week to the stream of thoughts that flows underneath the conscious shoulds. When you hear self abuse of any kind, even the sneaky kind that masquerades as “health,” ask God to give you something else to say. Write down what you hear so that you can come back to it when you need to. Pat yourself and say those things out loud. Say to yourself, “NO. This is my birthright. This body part ________ is GOOD. It is my BIRTHRIGHT.”

May be best if no one else is around. You need to get excited about this. You need to get freaking emphatic.

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Your body. Your body is your Birthright. Celebrating your body as you would celebrate a miracle, a newborn, and any other thing in creation? Also part of your birthright.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

You are good.

***

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm139:14

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