In the opening chapter of her book Breaking Free from Body Shame, Jess Connolly writes about a memory as an eight-year-old child.  She tells a story about going to a family wedding. She tells a story about being on the dance floor and dancing with other kids. She's eight. She's having a blast. She says that in the car ride home, she's laying in the back of a car. Parents are driving. She loves her parents, feels loved by her parents. Just a really safe moment.  And in the midst of that moment, she is reflecting on the wedding and the dancing and the fact that she became aware that she has a few more pounds on her body as an eight-year-old girl than maybe some of the other kids at the wedding.  She tells the story about how she lays in the back of the car, and she just begins to think that she wishes she didn't have those extra pounds and begins to imagine, like, what if it were possible for a laser to just kind of go along her little eight-year-old body and take away some of the things that she doesn't like?  She says she prays to God silently and says, "God, could you -- could you change my body? And this will just be our secret. You and me God, like, change me to be how I want to be." Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe there's something about your body that you wish you could change. Maybe you have memories of being a child and just having this realization of like, there's something about my body that I don't like and I wish it was different.  There's a story that you have about your body that you tell yourself. This is good. This is bad. I don't like this. I wish I didn't have this. It's a story we tell.


My friend Christie gave me permission to share her story here this morning. She also told me a story about when she was eight-years-old, and she said that it was the first time she realized that other people had opinions about her body.  She told me about how her grandfather came home from a vacation with a gift for her. Handed this gift in front of the whole family. And he thought it would be a great idea to give her a T-shirt that said, "I'm not fat. I'm fluffy."  And she said she looked around the room as an eight-year-old child, and thought, "am I fat? Does everybody think I'm fat? Is everybody thinking these things about my body?"  And everyone kind of awkwardly muffled, commented, laughed, like no one knew what to do in that space. And all she could think of is this what everyone's thinking? Is this the story they're telling me about my body?  I think we're all aware that other people have opinions about our body, whether it's family, whether it's friends, whether it's culture or media, that always seems to be a story about our body that somebody else has. See, I know that some of you here. Some of your stories like you weren't wanted. Maybe you were an accident, a mistake. Some of you have been surrounded by dysfunction in your families. Some of you have experienced complex trauma.  You have had words spoken over you and you've said them yourselves. You've hated your body. Starved it, punished it. Obsessed over it. You've been abused and you felt the sting of worthlessness.  And you tried to tuck it all away, like if I just, I can shove that thing down, but anxiety and depression and feelings of just not feeling like connected to our body, those things just keep kind of popping up. And it feels like this is your only story.  It's like we're caught in the middle, in the darkness and the despair, when this is the only story I remember. This is the only one that feels accessible. This is the one that feels most true. We're kind of caught in the middle.  And church this morning, I'm here to remind us that we have a first story and a last story. And it is not trauma. It is one of love and affection, you see goodness and beauty.


Throughout the series, we've been reflecting a lot back at Genesis 1 and this idea of being made in God's image. It says so God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them. God saw all that he made, and it was very good. I mean, this was our story at the beginning. God made us. We're made in his image.  And he's like, "this is good. This body is good. What I've created is good." And then evil came in and said, oh, I'm going to distort that story. A little bit of shame. Little bit of trauma. A little bit of pain in your life.  But then Jesus is like, oh, you know what? I want you to remember your first story, so I'm going to come and I'm going to buy it all back by my death and my resurrection on the cross. So that you can know that trauma is not your first story and it's not your last story.  See, Jesus, his death and his resurrection reminds us there was something before the pain. There was something before the trauma, there was something before evil came in and said, I'm going to steal that, I'll just take that. I'll just rob you of that. Jesus is like, no, your first story has always been one of love. Being made in the image of God. I started off this sermon by telling you about Jess Connolly and her little experience in the back of the car. Thinking about the things that she would change.  Church, what story are we speaking over our bodies? I read on Instagram recently about a family that teaches their little children to jump out of the bath and slap their stomach and say, this body is good. And I was like, I'm going to do that, I'm going to jump out of the shower and be like, "boom, this body is good."


Like, I want to change the way I talk about my body. And we can just sit here and be like, oh, the theology, we can pontificate and all of those things. I don't really care about that. I want transformation.  Like, I want you to think about yourself like Jesus thinks about it because we cannot afford to have a thought in our brain that is not thought of Jesus towards our body.  How do you need to change the way you talk about your body, even if it's just internal? Are you blessing your body? Or are you cursing your body? You spend your time thinking about all these things that should be different.  Oh God, I'm just I'm -- this is no good. Or do we spend our time meditating on God's love and affection and pursuit of us? Do we spend our time thinking about how changed we are by the trauma that we will never heal or we'll never be like that person and will never, never, never.  Or do we spend our time meditating on God, you're the God that restores all things. Nothing's impossible. You can meet me in my brokenness and you can bring restoration.  And then what about the story that others are telling you about your body? When I started Because Justice Matters and we do ministry to women and girls in the city, one of the first things we did was start Nail Day.  So we would start inviting women off the street, women who were homeless, who would experience all kinds of exploitation and violence, and we would paint nails. And you know, painting nails is great. Like, it's fun. Who doesn't like a nice little set of nails?  But what was more powerful was sitting across the table with a woman and holding her hands, and just we used to give a little hand massage. Which is like the best part of a manicure right now, a little hand massage you get.  But as we held those hands. What we did was we spoke a different story over their body. You see their bodies had been used and abused and taken advantage of, but when we held them, literally sometimes the women would fall asleep.  Because that's what happens when we, as the body of Christ, show up for one another and say, "let me tell you your true story. I mean, I know you're stuck in the middle right here, but when I touch your body in ways that are appropriate and loving, they reflect Christ's story over you." Who tells you your story? We all need someone, whether it's a partner or a friend or a therapist, somebody that would say, "wait, wait, wait.  Remember, that's just the middle of your story. That was never the beginning, and it's certainly not the end. We need to be the body speaking to each other's body, reminding us who we are.


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