Article by Liz Wann, Regular Contributor, Published in desiringGod, December 6, 2017
Before getting pregnant with my third child I worried about my body image. Will I be able to lose the baby weight a third time? Will there be more sagging? More stretching and scars? My postpartum body just doesn’t measure up to images on social media or the magazine aisle at checkout.
The cultural and social pressure out there is tough on our bodies, especially for women. Fat is stigmatized, muscle should be toned, and beach body ready by summertime. If the view of our bodies is reduced to only a scale number and a certain “fit look” then we are missing out on God’s design for our bodies.
God declares our bodies good. They are a temple of the Holy Spirit, which he bought at a great cost (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Since our bodies are good and not our own, we are called to cherish and care for them and use them in service and sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
Although tempted to believe otherwise when I look in the mirror, my pregnant body is good and my postpartum body is good. Scars and sagging skin are the marks I bear on my body in service of others, like when Jesus showed the disciples the nail scars in his hands. It was good for him to sacrifice his body for me, and it’s good for me to sacrifice my body for another.
Before the nail scarred hands, someone had to agree to volunteer their own body to bear the Savior. When the Virgin Mary was approached by the angel Gabriel and she submitted to the call on her life, she was not only sacrificing her reputation and social standing, but also her body (Luke 1:26–38). She was agreeing to carry a baby she didn’t ask for, and God himself was willing to grow inside her body.
Mary’s body was used for God’s purposes. For God to inhabit a human body he developed it inside of her womb. The one who is spirit took on flesh for all eternity. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “It is really, I suggest, a timeless truth about God that human nature, and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in his whole divine life.”
Jesus had to be made like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17). His body is not insignificant.
His body came out of the birth canal and as it grew Mary nourished him with her own body. Then Jesus himself was able to care for and nourish his body on his own. He slept, he rested, he ate good food, and he worked hard in manual labor and ministry. He ministered to people’s bodies — not just their souls — through healings and miracles. He fed people’s minds and hearts, but also fed their bodies (Matthew 14:13–21).
Then, as the culmination of bodily service to God and others, Jesus’s body was killed. His body broke on a tree just like when he broke a loaf of bread in half with his disciples (Luke 22:19). He told them he was going to break his body for them. And as he poured wine for them, he told them he would spill his blood for them (Matthew 26:27–28). The hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, depicts Christ’s birth resulting in the giving of his body and blood for our eternal nourishment:
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, because he had an untainted soul, but also because he had a body. His blood would spill like the blood smeared all over the High Priest in the tabernacle. His body could be broken and die like the ram given to Abraham in exchange for the life of his son (Genesis 22:9–14). His body developed in the body of a woman, so his body could be crushed for us.
This is why his body is not insignificant, why my body is not insignificant even when it’s swollen in pregnancy and sagging in its postpartum state. His body is not insignificant because he calls us to remember his body in the Lord’s Supper. With a cracker and a cup of juice we remember his body sacrificed for us. And he still bears the bodily scars of his sacrifice and service, even in his resurrected body.
Charles Spurgeon imagines the angels in heaven wondering at the scars of Christ:
They were enabled to behold for themselves in heaven the man who suffered, and they could see the wounds which were produced in his body by his sufferings; and I can readily imagine that this would cause them to lift their songs higher, would prolong their shouts of triumph, and would cause them to adore him with a rapture of wonderment, such as they had never felt before. And I doubt not that every time they look upon his hands, and behold the crucified man exalted by his Father’s side, they are afresh wrapt in wonder, and again they strike their harps with more joyous lingers at the thought of what he must have suffered who thus bears the scars of his hard-fought battles.
If Christ’s scars have meaning, maybe my scars on behalf of another life have meaning too. God can be exalted in my pregnant and postpartum body (Philippians 1:20).
As I remember the body and blood of Christ, I recall that he ransomed my body, as well as my soul, to belong to him forever. This is the reason I offer up my body to him (Romans 12:1), as I carry another body in my womb. We both are fearfully and wonderfully made. I give up my body so my future daughter can be knitted in my womb by God himself. God is exalted in this body and he will keep it blameless until he comes again (1 Thessalonians 5:23) to give me an even more glorious body at the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).