God has a body, they said.
God walked on the earth and blew dust out of his nose and laughed with his friends. God took on human flesh so we, human flesh, could be with God. God had to become a body, they said. And I believed it.
I saw the pictures, growing up; I saw the pictures of God on flannel graphs and coloring pages and in the Jesus storybooks and on TV. I liked God.
God had a body, but it wasn’t a body like mine.
It wasn’t a body with breasts that grew, with hips that expanded, with a uterus that bled regularly, with cramps that made him throw up every month. It wasn’t a body that was warned against, and called a stumbling block.
It wasn’t a body that was called unclean and prevented from participating in community and worship. It wasn’t a body that kept him on the edge of society, that made him property, or that made him less than other human bodies in public because of his private parts. It wasn’t a body that was silenced, just for being a certain gender of body.
It wasn’t a body like mine.
There were eight people in my house growing up, and the bathroom was the only door that locked. And even though it offered peace to lock the door and turn on the shower, it was only a matter of time before someone else came pounding, letting you know that they wanted in and your time was up.
Our bodies are like that, too. Sometimes I can hear mine creaking already: Your time is running out.
You’re just a body.
The water encourages the crisis as it pounds down on my skin. It’s terribly vulnerable to be just me and my body and soap. Even as I scrub away the old skin cells to release the new, I am losing parts of myself. I am growing older. Bits of me run down the drain, and they are not me anymore.
I’ve heard people say that they sing in the shower because of the acoustics; the mix of steam and glass and high ceiling cushions the pitch of the song. But my shower is ripe with existential crisis, and I sing so I don’t cry.
God had a body, they say.
But it’s not a woman’s body.
It’s not a body that is feared and controlled and abused and abandoned and coerced, like the bodies of women all over the world. It’s not a body that is passed over for promotions and speaking platforms, equality and the ability to make decisions for the intimate parts of that body. It’s not a body that is too fat, too old, too loud, too young, too angry, too independent, too ugly, or too weak to be valued.
It’s not a body that is raped, like one in six women’s bodies are raped in this epidemic in America right now.
God’s body doesn’t make God unacceptable in church. It doesn’t disqualify God from teaching, praying, leading, or giving without restrictions, the way that women’s bodies are banned from serving. God’s body is poured out in wine and broken in bread, but it’s not a body like mine.
Despite what I’ve said about Jesus living in my heart, God has never inhabited my body. It’s mine; sometimes it cannot feel further from God’s.
I used to be jealous of Catholics, because they had Mary. She at least, had God in her own body for a while, and is honored for that still.
Growing up Evangelical, we sidestepped Mary, lest we worshipped her God-bearing female body. The only mother we had was Eve, and she was deceived. The pastor said she was deceived, because that’s what Paul wrote to Timothy, but I understood that he believed she was a bit of the Deceiver, too.
After all, when she gave Adam the forbidden fruit, she was playing the part of the serpent to him. After all, when she bore children in her body, she did pass on sin through her cursed womb.
After all, she had a woman’s body.
I guess, though, we also had the Proverbs 31 woman. She was welcome, lauded, and strong in her home sphere. But even she had a husband and an estate to keep, and all I had was a growing collection of half-filled, hand-scrawled journals that I stashed underneath my mattress on the lower bunk.
When I flung myself onto my bed and pulled out the journal and a pen, I wrote out prayers that my body, please, wouldn’t be so sinful.
One time I heard a woman take a deep breath and close her eyes and lift up her hands and pray: Father, Mother, Brother, Sister God, be with us.
I cringed; my body tensed up. God couldn’t be like that. God was Jesus, was man, was male, was Father, was Lord, was King, was God.
I couldn’t handle a prayer like that. To use feminine names or references for God was disrespectful, liberal, unbiblical, and wrong. It was making God in my own image to use a feminine pronoun. God wouldn’t be like that, like a woman, like me, like Emily.