Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Bodies: A Means to and End or Our Master?

As I've been thinking more about these thoughts, they've led me to what I think is my conclusion:

Our body is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

It seems like a simple premise, but I think we (I) often get things muddled up. When, as I said in the last post, our attention to health and our bodies becomes the focus of our lives, it can become our god. And when it becomes our god, it is no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself.

Just to get all spiritual on you, Paul viewed the body as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

So often I hear the introductory verses of this passage to justify physical training, without mentioning the last verse, which is the clincher. Paul sees the point in physical training: Not to have the body of an Adonis, but to make our bodies our slaves - so that we can do the work that God has for us. But so many of us in our physical training and quest for health aren't doing it to make our body our slave - so that we can fulfill our purposes - but are making the body our master. We are making it an end in itself that absorbs all our time, energy and thoughts. 

For me, this becomes less theory and more direct application when I think of setting my ideal body weight - the weight at which I seek to stay to be healthy. With my ideal weight, I have to ask myself, what is my end? Here's some options.

Hot Bikini Body Let's be honest, a lot of people set their ideal body weight where they think they will look hot. And I have done this myself. But setting my weight to optimum bikini-age is making my body an end in itself, not a means to an end. 

Pleasing Your Spouse It's not wrong, though, to want to look good. It's a God-given desire that can go awry, but in it's purest form is a desire to bring joy to our spouse. In this way, having a hot bod is a means to an end and not an end in itself. But - and here's the big but (no pun intended) - when setting our ideal weight do we honestly have our spouse's delight in mind or our own or society's vain idea of what beauty is? 

If I truly seek what my husband finds beautiful, it is different from what society tells me. If I followed pop culture, I would lose an additional 10 to 20 pounds to gain that boyish figure that is so popular. But, as it turns out, my husband likes women, not boys. He also likes a happy, contented wife. A Size-Two Amber is not a happy Amber. It's a body-obsessed, quick-to-anger Amber. (Trust me, I've been there.) So I, happily, stay a little more padded for my husband's good and my own good. While I'll never be on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition (not that I would want to, blech), my husband is delighted with me, which is the reason God gave me beauty in the first place. I always have to remember that my beauty is for the purpose of delighting my husband - not myself or anybody else. 

Playing with my Family Another end to which my body is a means is enjoying and engaging in life with my family. I want to be able to chase Allie around the house and hike mountains with Mike. So I set my body weight where I can comfortably do those things. It's not the same weight as if I wanted to run a marathon, but luckily, that's not an end to which I aspire. (Not that there's anything wrong with it if you do, as long as you don't become slave to your body.)

Work to my Best Ability Another end my body serves is to work - to provide and care for my family. If I am tired out, stressed out or not sleeping well, my body isn't serving its purpose. And, ironically, this can happen because I've not paid enough attention to my health or because I've paid too much attention to it. Like Paul, we beat our bodies to serve our purposes, not to serve it as our master.  

It might seem like I'm being awful redundant, and I am. I am preaching to myself, as it's something I constantly need to hear. My body is not an end in itself. My purpose on this earth is not to sculpt my abs to look good in a swimsuit. My abs are here to serve me so that I can bend over and pick up Allie 400 times a day and face with strength all the many things God has prepared for me to do each day. My body serves me. I don't serve it. 

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