I step out of the shower, wrapped in just a towel, and stand in front of the full-length mirror. Water is still dripping from my hair, creating a tiny puddle next to my feet on the shiny brown tiles.
“This is it,” I whisper to myself.
Slowly, I unwrap the soft towel from my body and let it fall onto the puddle of water on the floor.
I take a deep breath.
I look at my naked body – my dark chocolate skin, the tiny scars on my knee, the pink-ish pimples scattered on my face, the fields of hair on my arms, my muffin top and jiggly thighs, the curves of my waist, the feet I’ve never been fond of…
Then suddenly, I fall.
With roars of ferocious laughter, I knock myself down to my knees.
This isn’t any ordinary laughter — this is the snot-running-down-your-nose and tummy-viciously-aching and uncontrollable-wheezing and aching-facial-muscles and I-think-she’s-in-pain-call-911 kind of laughter.
This wasn’t how I expected any of this to go.
In her book “An Alter in the World: A Geography of Faith,” New York Times Bestselling Author Barbara Brown Taylor claims our bodies are temples, where our souls grapple with the divine in tangible ways. The practice of wearing skin is so poignant and beautiful, she says, it is one of the most underrated miracles there is.
When I first read this, I ached with understanding.
Our bodies speak to us when we hunger, when we feel cold, when we physically hurt, and when we emotionally hurt. Our bodies have the ability to give birth, to give pleasure, to heal from hurt. Our bodies are divine works of art, mastered by a brilliant creator. Barbara argues that Jesus understood this magical ability of our bodies to communicate what our souls couldn’t.
Jesus intentionally touched the leper, an act that not only broke social norms, but also expressed the deep love he has, to a human who thought he was untouchable.
Jesus physically broke bread, allowing his disciples to taste his faithfulness and provision — literally. Jesus got on his knees and washed dirty feet, a lesson words would be incapable to teach. Jesus knew our bodies were as sensitive to the Lord’s spirit as our souls are.
He knew this so well that he wore a layer of skin, so he could eat with the hungry, drink with the thirsty, and bleed for the weary.
I remember the first time I indulged in Barbara’s book. Her thoughts about bearing our bodies fascinated me. I was engrossed by every word she had written, and soaked each sentence like a sponge. My eyes moved from line to line, hungry for all she had to say…
Till she said something that made my jaw drop:
“I can say that I think it is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body.”
Barbara went on to explain how our culture has managed to deem our bodies as sexual or private matters that aren’t meant to be celebrated. We spend most of our time covering our bodies, and only get to have quick glimpses of our bellies and thighs during a shower or while changing our clothes. But if our bodies are holy miracles, a gift from God that is meant to be cherished and loved, we need to truly treat our bodies like temples.
Barbara suggests praying naked.
I’ve indulged in many different prayer practices such as lection divina, breath prayers, prayer labyrinths, and Quaker prayers. But this was a new one. A strange one. An exciting one!
Yes, yes yes!
I was completely sold on Barbara’s idea of seeing our bodies as holy miracles. And so, this summer, I decided to do it.
And… well, things didn’t quite go as I planned
I tried to pray naked. But I couldn’t.
After seconds within studying my body, I was laughing. There wasn’t anything funny about my body or the situation, but I was hysterically laughing.
Barbara said this was a spiritual practice that was supposed to lead me to self-love and a rocking relationship with God. Why was laughter my response instead? Where were the Spirit-led prayers of adoration and thanksgiving?
I will confess: I have had issues with my body before.
I used to make rude comments about my “less-than-perfect” stomach and thighs. I did everything I could to stay away from bikinis and skin-hugging dresses. I enviously looked at magazines, dreaming of thinner days that would never come.
But somewhere along the way, thanks to the inspiration and courage of certain women in my life, I learned how to laugh and how to recognize the joy in my life. I allowed myself to eat an extra Oreo (sans the guilt).
I dared to wear shorter dresses, despite my thighs which do not stand perfectly still when I walk. I held my head up slightly higher from the ground.
Somehow, I learned the joy of bearing my body, of wearing my skin.
But I didn’t realize I did… until I tried to pray naked. So maybe that’s why my laughter seemed to be the most appropriate response to my act of prayer.
Maybe laughter was my declaration that I love this body that does miraculous and wonderful things. Maybe laughter was my prayer, my proclamation that I like the way I look, so thanks be to God.
Photo Credit: Woupidy, Creative Commons