What is a forsaken body? What does it look like? How do you recognize it? Can you avoid one?
Forsaken bodies look different. They come in all different shapes, sizes and conditions. The bottom line is they’re all ignored, mistreated and neglected in various ways.
Over the years, I’ve forsaken my body. Having seen or done all of the following signs of a forsaken body, think through them to see if you might have one, too.
Each indicator of a forsaken body comes with an explanation from my own struggles or people I previously encountered. In my experience, I’ve come to learn the forsaken body is all too common, especially in the church.
1. Christians rarely address the body. Think back. How many times have you heard a sermon about the body? Like the body as part of the image of God? How about that the body is a temple of the Spirit?
Have you discussed self-control of bodily sins in small group? Not necessarily immorality or drunkenness but sloth and gluttony, embodied sins also prohibited in scripture. How about the command to glorify God with the body? Have you discussed how to do that in Sunday school? Has your Wednesday night Bible study talked about the resurrection and the future body?
If your church experience has been anything like mine, then you can’t really say yes to any of these questions.
2. Disregard the need for regular exercise. Do you forego exercise because you operate with the mindset that upon death, the body decays and the soul goes to the Lord? I worked at a seminary gym for a while and heard some form of this belief quite often.
Once I was told, “I don’t need to see the gym because I won’t spend time there. I’m training to be a missionary.” While the church needs more missionaries, this is short-sighted. Getting sufficient exercise can play an important role in extending your effectiveness and time on the mission field or wherever else you serve the Lord.
3. Regularly push through physical. Do you ignore recurrent pain or injury just to avoid taking a break from exercise?
Confession: I have forsaken my body for years in this way. I’ve had broken bones and torn ligaments, but still couldn’t handle missing a workout. I continue to battle this tendency and wrote about that recently.
4. Solely focus on spiritual matters. Do you neglect your physical health because you think your spiritual health is all that matters?
I’ve heard some excuse this by claiming, “Paul says physical training doesn’t matter.” Incidentally, this misrepresents 1 Timothy 4:8, but it also misses the point. If Christianity is a spiritual faith lived through a physical body, then both spiritual and physical aspects of life matter.
Not to mention, if your poor physical health is visible to the world, they may not pay attention to the spiritual help you want to give them.
5. Ignore effects of stress. Does your hectic, hurried schedule make you anxious and irritable, or does it give you tension headaches, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, sleeping issues or stomach problems? I pushed my body through obvious signs of stress because I didn’t want to slow down or deal with the source of my problems.
6. Habitually restrict calories. Do you frequently and intentionally eat less than you know you should just to lose weight? I’ve been guilty of this over the years, too. It took me several years to realize that I was choosing to abuse my body in this way. Losing weight was more important to me than properly caring for my body.
7. Neglect doctor visits and necessary medicine. Do you disregard regular check-ups, medicine or refuse to see a doctor over concerning issues? If you have health issues in your family history, then it isn’t wise to ignore your health, new problems or doctor visits. Likewise, refusing medication for chronic disease management demonstrates little respect for the body.
8. Over-consumption of low nutrient foods. Do you regularly eat junky foods that not only put bad calories and manufactured ingredients in your body, but also lack the vitamins and minerals your body requires?
I’ve talked to people who claim — because they aren’t overweight — they can eat whatever they want. But remember, you can still develop a chronic disease if your insides are unhealthy.
Also, most boxed, pre-packaged and fast foods are full of empty calories, meaning the calories they contain do nothing good for your body.
9. Condone cultural devaluation of the body. Do you excuse a secular worldview that degrades the body through abortion, gender reassignment and pornography? These cultural norms devalue God’s wondrously designed human body.
As these issues become more prevalent, Christians must be able to discuss them in love. We need to respectfully communicate the beliefs we stand for instead of divisively yelling about the practices we stand against.
10. Intentional sleep deprivation. Do you make a habit of choosing to sleep less than six hours each night just to get more done? Lack of sleep is a major contributor to many health issues. Willfully going on little sleep now will leave your body suffering later.
11. Too much exercise. Do you work out too much, whether it’s spending hours in the gym each day or exercising every day of the week? Your body can only sustain excessive exercise for a time. It will eventually breakdown. I know this from experience. In my obsession and idolatry, over-exercise led to bodily harm.
In all these ways, and likely more, the body is forsaken, ignored, mistreated, overlooked and neglected. Like me, if you recognize that you have a forsaken body, it’s never too late to take better care of it.
As a side note, when I talk about forsaken bodies in this way, I’m not implying that the person or self is separate from the body. You are your body.
You are an embodied being. Soul and body are equivalent constituents of your personhood. Both are equally valuable and essential to your existence. So I when speak of a forsaken body, the ultimate question is: are you forsaking yourself?
Lainey Greer is a Ph.D. student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her website is www.forsakenbody.com.