At Home in Your Skin
In my Bible study, we are reading through the Second Letter to the Corinthians from St. Paul. The last session covered Chapter Five, which deals with the current and future destiny of our bodies.
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. (2 Cor 5:1)
Here, St. Paul is referring to the earthly body as a tent, and the heavenly body as a building.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites traveled with the Holy of Holies, the place where the Presence of God dwelled in a special and unique way, in the form of a tent structure. It's portable, and appropriate for a sojourning people. When they finally reached the Promised Land, King Solomon built the Temple out of stone and precious metals. It was a structure of permanence and stability; it declared this is where God is and He isn't moving.
When we read the Transfiguration scene, in Luke 9: 28-36, Jesus' face and clothing are changed. Scholars take this to mean that we will have our same bodies, for all eternity. In Heaven, the body shall be glorified and refined, whereas in Hell, the body shall be as damned as the soul, in anguish just as fitting.
In the ancient world, this concept of retaining your physical body after death would have been flabbergasting. Most philosophical traditions saw the body as something other than the true self. It was something to be punished, or used for mere pleasure, but importantly gotten rid of, so the spirit-self could be free.
Christianity says otherwise. We, human beings, are body-soul composites— matter and spirit united into one creature. And that is good. If we were pure matter, we would be like the inanimate universe, or at best like animals. If we were pure spirit, we would be angels. We are neither. We are a unity of the two most opposite things in the universe, and God looks at us and says we are good.
Think now of the people whom you've met who were so solid and real and, in a word, themselves, that you felt comfortable enough to be yourself. Think of the people whose houses you walk into and sigh with peace and the knowledge that you are loved. Think of those whose arms embrace you and tell you it is good to be alive.
We as Christians are often referred to as pilgrims or travelers. Here, our bodies are like tents; portable to remind us that we are on our way somewhere, sometimes prone to damage, patchable, yet still home. If you have ever gone camping, you know the process of setting up your site. Your tent is your home while you're out on adventure. It is your space to be out of the storm, though the winds and rain may howl and beat down upon you. Our destination is Heaven. There, we shall have bodies like gemstones, fixed and brilliant and fastened in the glory of the Eternal Kingdom.
Our culture is a mix of post-modernism and de novo-paganism. Advertising is the new art that tells us who we should want to be and how to become that person. Generational issues, from self-hate to competition to a break-down of sexuality, have given us a whole messy stew to cook in. So it's no wonder that I hear my friends say things like "My arms are fat" or "It's not fair that some girls don't go to the gym and are still skinny" or "My nose is huge.” If we are commanded to love your neighbor as yourself, yet we inflict so much criticism onto the image in the mirror, no wonder we have such a hard time accepting compliments and affirmations.
One of the best ways to love others is to love yourself. Not #treatyoself, but actually love yourself. Treat yourself with dignity and respect. The Christian is commanded to love as Christ loved, and thus has the duty to be a holistically integrated human being more so than the rest of society. Be at home in your own skin, and allow others to be home in their own existence. We want visitors and guests to feel welcome in our homes, don’t we? Well, they can't unless we do; stability and hospitality begin in the heart. These virtues start to grow when we allow ourselves to become integrated and united, when all of our being is directed and following one Way. With all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, and with all your soul.