Many of you know that I’m a pretty avid yoga practitioner. I love the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of consistently showing up on my mat, and while I’m in that space, I can honestly say that I love my body. I’m thankful for its strength and endurance, and I’m mindful of giving it grace—even on the days when I don’t feel so stable, strong, or persevering.
Tony and I just got back from our first real vacation. Our two weeks in Indonesia were spent with a couple of great friends relaxing, connecting, and celebrating our 2nd anniversary! The surf and yoga were certainly what drew us to the destination. Anyway, that’s not my point.
My point is that just before we left for Bali, I was on the hunt for a decent fitting pair of jean shorts. Since it's the dead of winter in Cape Town, this wasn’t the easiest task. Add to that the fact that I’m rather particular about shorts and how they look on my body and you’ve got yourself a mission near impossible.
While in the fitting rooms, I noticed that I wasn’t giving my body the same kind of thanks and grace that I offer it on my yoga mat. In fact, I wasn’t thankful or grace-giving at all; I was critical and harsh.
“What’s up with that?” I thought.
I love my body when I feel like its performing well, and I borderline hate my body when it simply doesn’t measure up to my expectations—or to the magazine covers and Billabong posters.
I thought further. “Wow. Is my self-image seriously standing on such shaky ground? Am I really that conditional when it comes to my own body?”
The unfortunate answer is “yes,” and as that reality sunk in, I started thinking about how this kind of conditionality can manifest in other aspects of life. Let me offer a few generic examples:
• I love my husband when he’s sweet and nice. I’m short-fused with my husband when he doesn’t love me the way I want to be loved.
• I love my mom when she takes me shopping, cooks me dinner, or does my laundry. I’m annoyed and frustrated with my mom when she doesn’t respond to me the way I want her to.
• I love my friend when she agrees with everything I say. I’m offended by my friend when she differs from me or when she highlights a possible issue or sin in my life.
• I love my child when he’s performing well in school and athletics. I’m unloving toward my child when he doesn’t perform to my standards.
• I love my pastor when he preaches a “really good” sermon. I’m critical of my pastor when he gives a message that I believe to be irrelevant, incorrect, or shallow.
• I love my body when I'm running the trails. I hate my body in a bathing suit—at least when there are "better looking" bodies lying around the pool.
Like I said, these are some generic examples, but if any of them could apply to you, feel free to fill in the blanks for yourself!
So the question is: How do we battle conditionality—this rollercoaster ride of loving then loving not? I think the answer could be: with some combination of remembrance, truth, and consistency. We need to remember the truth then speak it over ourselves and our relationships, and we need to do it consistently—despite our feelings and perspectives.
I'm convinced that the appreciation I have for my body in the yoga studio can be carried into the fitting room. It's a choice. Likewise, the love and respect I have for my husband, family, and friends can be consistently expressed through my words and actions. May we all seek to remember the truth, speak the truth, and do it time and time again.
After all, the love of the Father is completely unconditional, and we carry His Spirit within us. Through Him, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).