Made For Delight

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At my church, a small processional begins each service. The acolytes walk in holding a processional cross, the Gospel, and some candles. And as the cross passes in procession, it is appropriate to bow. I am relatively new to this, so most of the time, I have taken a tiny bow, almost non-existent. I’m not usually one to make commotion out of my ignorance. I tried to keep the bowing as calm and unnoticeable as possible.

But a few weeks ago, I got bold and took my first deep bow as the cross passed by. And as I rose my chest up again, it occurred to me perhaps for the first time in my life that my body could be a means of worship. It hit me hard in the heart and it was with tenderness that God spoke quietly, “How could you have hated this good thing?”

As an Anglican, there’s a focus on embodied liturgy. Giving nod to the Incarnation, this takes seriously the thought that it’s not just our minds and our hearts that Christ dwells in, but even our very bodies. We don’t just worship him with our adoring thoughts, but action too, allowing our bodies to move on behalf of that adoration. This could mean, among other things, feasting, fasting, crossing myself, or kneeling at his Table.

For me, though, this becomes a little complicated. In short, I have hated my body for fifteen years. There is probably not a more graceful way to say it. This fact is almost incomprehensible to me. But it’s true. Since about the time I was eight years old, before my body began to even consider puberty, I have felt much shame over my flesh, at times with a hatred that has frightened me.

Though I have battled raging shame for most of my life, something essential in me knows that my flesh was not made to be an enemy to God or to me. It was made for delight.

Kelsey Miller

This hatred has changed shape over time, almost in the same way that my body has changed shape as I’ve matured and grown. It has been all-consuming, ravenous, much like the hunger I’ve forced myself into at my worst. It has been lonely and isolating, similar to when I’ve been in obsessive modes of calorie-counting. Sometimes it has led me to cling closely to a mirror, inspecting myself at every angle, and other times, it has led me to avoid any mirror at all costs, lest I am disgusted by my own reflection. At all times, it has put me at odds with the Creator of this flesh, confused about my anger towards the only skin I’ve got.

That same Sunday that I took my deep bow, our priest added right before we went to communion: “I’m going to be in the back for prayer. I encourage you to come if you’re having difficulty feeling God’s delight for you.” My face was wet with tears. Though I have battled raging shame for most of my life, something essential in me knows that my flesh was not made to be an enemy to God or to me. It was made for delight.

That is the task right now, to take back the delight I have been sacrificing on the altar of my self-made condemnation. Delight in God’s creation, including my very own flesh, requires reverence, a declaration of authority: “Look with awe! God is in this. How could he not be?”

It is hard for grace and shame to live in the same room, to breathe the same air. One will surely extinguish the other.

Kelsey Miller

Of course, this is not a magic fix. I am not suddenly healed of almost two decades of embodied shame. I have wished that was the case, and naively thought it was the case before and the reality is that there are no quick fixes in this life and we know that, even by the way that God’s healing is coming into the world. It’s slow, often painfully quiet, but it’s coming. The same follows in the healing He does in us: it’s slow, it’s quiet, but I really do believe it’s coming.

Instead of magic, God gives us habits, and for better or for worse, we are shaped by our repetition. Right now, I am awkwardly learning some new practices, the ones that sing of delight rather than despair. And as the work continues, I notice the hatred is a little quieter these days, perhaps even softening. It is hard for grace and shame to live in the same room, to breathe the same air. One will surely extinguish the other. I have found healing in small places, in small doses, in the careful repetition of healing habits. In practicing yoga at my home, toppling over while attempting crow pose. In inviting friends to eat at our home. In wearing less makeup. In my husband’s touch. In bowing deeply to the cross. But most of all, on my knees at the altar, hungry and thirsty for the meal Jesus gave us.

It turns out God has never asked me to make myself smaller for his sake. He's never asked me to starve.

Kelsey Miller

These are my new habits, the ones that bend towards worship, rather than my old twisted form of self-idolatry. Every week I will keep bowing towards his cross, bending my body on behalf of my adoration. It turns out God has never asked me to make myself smaller for his sake. He’s never asked me to starve. He’s asked me to delight in him with my whole self and he matches that delight, filling my cup to overflowing.

How could I have hated this good thing? I’m not really sure. With time and healing, by the sweet grace of God, I await with hope that the end of the hatred is fast approaching. It is about time.


7 Comments

  1. Scully

    @newcreature

    How curiously beautiful, that I would read this the moment after it’s finally clicked: my dancing is how I tell the wall to fall.

    To explain …

    First: Spring of 2015 — it finally clicked that my dancing is worship.

    I was on a bus with college classmates, studying abroad. They’d learned through the semester that I liked to dance, and on this bus ride, they were playing music. So, they called my name multiple times, encouraging me to dance! (Yes, on a moving bus.) I was in a season of breaking myself out of my shell, so I pushed through the discomfort, and danced a bit. (In the aisle; it was fun.) It was a good experience for two reasons:

    1. It did, in fact, help me break out of my shell; and

    2. I felt like a hooker — not because dancing is sexual for me (it’s not), but because I dance for GOD; and so, when I danced at the request of PEOPLE … well, it felt like I was dancing FOR people, as if I were giving to people what I only wanted to give to God. In other words: it felt like idolatry (let’s be blunt: God calls that “whoring”).

    Was it actual idolatry? No, cuz I wasn’t worshiping them — and I knew that. But it took dancing for them to realize that my dancing was something I wanted to give to God alone; and THAT is what told me: I dance to worship God.

    Second: Since Fall of 2015, I’ve been told (by many people who don’t know each other) that my dancing is warfare in the spiritual realm. Like, it does stuff to the enemy, and makes angels delight, apparently.

    Third: Very recently, as I’ve been healed, I’ve learned that (for as much as I am a man of words) I’m naturally non-verbal and extremely kinesthetic — by which I mean: I don’t want to use words to communicate. I’m good with words cuz they were my means of protection as a kid; it was on threat of pain that I forced myself to learn how to use words to appease.

    Now, as God has been healing me of this fear of man, I’m am returning to my original design. I want to speak with my mouth less, and instead speak with my body SOOO much more!! And dancing is like sign-language for me. It’s a natural form of prayer.

    Fourthly: Also very recently, a friend of mine explained to me where I am in my journey with a story. In that story, I was at a wall. While others went around and over the wall, encouraging me to come with them, I chose to remain, because I knew the wall would fall. Then Jesus came up to me and said, “Why don’t you tell the wall to fall?” And in response, I say, “I didn’t know I could.”

    For me, the wall is fear; largely, the fear of abandonment spawned by the abuse. It is crippling me. Papa is healing me of this, but He’s also teaching me how to fight the fear, how to tell it to fall. For the past few weeks (and this is the best I’ve been in years), I’ll have days of incredible peace, but the fear eventually returns, and push me into a state of depression. And I haven’t known how to cause it to leave (though it eventually does) …

    … until today.

    I was crying, asking God why he kept letting it return, why he wouldn’t just finish healing me, why He’s left me alone without the comfort of a father or brother! And he answered me: He hasn’t giving me what I’ve asked for yet, because it’s this fear (and depression) that forces me to my knees, to cry out to him, which brings healing, and where He teaches me how to fight. In other words: He’s forcing me to fast from relationships so that the fear will return; for it’s only when the fear (the enemy) is present that I’m forced to learn how to fight.

    That’s when all of the knowledge over the past few years came together in a moment — and I knew: dancing would cause the wall to fall.

    So I got up, and danced.

    Immediately, the fear and depression left.

    Afterwards, in peace, I got on my computer, went to the Rabbit Room … and saw this article. I usually don’t read articles, here or otherwise. And the words “processional” and “acolytes” gave me the image of a culture I don’t understand and have associated with woundings due to the lack of knowing God; and so, I was inclined to not read … and yet, still, I clicked and read. (It could only have been the Spirit.)

    How curiously beautiful, that I would read this the moment after it’s finally clicked: my dancing is how I tell the wall to fall.

    Your story is a testimony of joy, Kelsey; and it brings me such delight! Praise Jesus! I look forward to how much more our Papa will cause you to grow and heal in him. Thank you for giving us this gift. As a response, here’s something for you (or anyone who read my comment) …

    What’s your “dancing”?

    By which I mean: What’s your “wall”? Where is God calling you to step out and tell it to fall? And what is the weapon He’s given you to do that?

  2. Sandy

    Hi!

    How beautiful are your words as you open your heart!  Truly God is smiling upon you. He loves you!

    I would dearly love to suggest that you look into a more loving type of stretching alternatives, Christian alternatives to yoga (see links below as to why) Perhaps you can see if there is a WholyFit class near you? WholyFit is a beautiful exercise ministry – worshiping God, learning Scripture while stretching safely, all for the glory of God and for the exact reasons you mentioned above.  Praise Moves is another wonderful idea.  Simply put, there is so much educational info out there on why Christians need to be aware of what yoga is.

    Blessings, dear Sister in Christ! Praise God for opening your eyes and having you share your beautiful heart!  Keep writing!!

    http://www.wholyfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/yoga-vs-the-Biiblejune08zip.pdf
    https://www.charismamag.com/life/health/19347-stretching-the-truth-about-yoga
     http://www.thecatholicoutpost.com/2017/08/02/catholics-yoga-and-words/

    https://edhird.com/2013/04/05/yoga-more-than-meets-the-eyes/
    http://www.thetruelight.net/myspiritualjourney.htm

  3. Cole McCollum

    Kelsey,

    Praise God for the slow healing He is working in you! Your post is a deep encouragement to me. I am one of a rare breed (I’m finding): both a Christian and a man, who has battled near-death anorexia and is learning the same realities you have expressed. I am reminded by your words and the story of Genesis 3 – our enemy is more restrictive than our Father. Thank you for reminding me of grace and the goodness of the body. God bless you my sister.

  4. Cole McCollum

    Kelsey,

    I rejoice to hear of how our Father is healing and renewing your mind in Christ Jesus. Your words, your hard-born but precious insights are hope giving. Personally, I have faced the dragon’s teeth of anotexia, struggling for years and nearly losing my life on two occasions. Being a man, this heavy pendulum of cyclical body hatred / body worship leaves its own unique, shameful marks (men with such struggle are rare…at least, seemingly so). Like you, I am slowly learning what it means to delight in my Father’s unabated love for me in Christ, and recognize my Shepherd’s voice amidst a cocophany of lies. Thank you for your transparency, my sister. It has been a holy instrument of reminder for me. May God bless you, and meet you, as you continue to “bow toward the cross.”

  5. Thomas Leonard

    @tleonard

    Thank you Kelsey for these powerful words and others for your stories and thoughts.

    I also resonated with these thoughts, ones which have been coming to me recently in prayers asking for Jesus to incarnate himself through people on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ve seen these answered and other times, I’m not so sure. Anyways, I do see that those of us in “less liturgical” (we have liturgies, we just don’t refer to them as such) protestant churches lose something by having such a disembodied worship service. It’s not to denigrate teaching, preaching, or singing, there just seems something missing.

    I also appreciated when your priest spoke of having difficulty feeling God’s delight for you. I don’t think I realized until recent years how hard this has been for me to sense on a daily, regular basis

    @newcreature, I appreciated your story and honesty as well. I don’t know exactly where my wall lies, but I’m coming to believe that it is the lie that I don’t have weight or a voice that’s worth sharing with the world. I’m not exactly sure how to tell it to fall but writing can help. Dancing is also a powerful release and another thing I wish Christians did more of (at least in my circles)!

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