Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.
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Breaking Bathing Suit Bonds
Thoughts on bodies and liberation this swimsuit season
All of this lathering sunblock on squirmy little bodies and finding a swimsuit that works for my nine-month pregnant body and keeping a wary eye on the aforementioned little bodies as they dare closer and closer to deep water and navigating a veritable sea of bodies in pursuit of the good spot under the big tree has got me thinking. About (surprise) bodies.
Our bodies are vulnerable. They unabashedly announce our fragility and dependence and glory all over the place. They are truth tellers. Like the slightly drunken family member at every Thanksgiving table everywhere, they tell pointedly personal stories about us. Our bodies are us. Really us. And our bodies are more than just skin and sinew and bone and fat animated by our souls. We are whole persons made part and parcel in the image of God. And we are — all of us — fearfully and wonderfully made.
As I watch our soon-to-be born daughter roll and hiccup and kick under the thin veil of my stretched skin, I am reminded that God chose to have a body. God chose to be sheltered and fed and protected by the body of a mother. God chose the delicate limbs of a newborn. God chose the body of a young child — all round and unsteady and soft — to first walk upon the very earth God breathed into being. God chose the body of a boy — all angles and spring and bruised knees — to begin teaching the wise. God chose the body of a man — with all of its weight and burden and beauty — to carry him to the cross. God chose to be a body. Not to debase or lower himself but to lift us up. All of us. And God has promised that our bodies will be an integral part of our life in the world to come. Our God is a God who cares for bodies.
So what I want to say is this: Your body is good. This year, as you pull your swimsuit from the back of the drawer and lament the fact that your body does not look like the scantily clad and heavily airbrushed bodies plastered all over every magazine cover in your local grocery store checkout lane, remember your body is good. It’s true. Capital “T” True. This is not a matter of opinion. It is, in fact, a matter of faith. As you dip your toes into your local pool or let them feel the cool lap of the ocean or slip them into the kiddie pool in your own backyard, remember the words of the African-American spiritual, “Wade in the Water”:
Wade in the water.
Wade in the water, children.
Wade in the water.
God’s gonna trouble the water
This is a song about God’s promise of liberation from what binds us. Like Moses and the Israelites escaping Pharaoh’s army across the Red Sea, it’s a song about foiling the attempts of the enemy to snare us (it was used on the Underground Railroad to remind ex-slaves headed North to travel by water to throw off bloodhounds). It’s a song about Baptism. It’s a song about freedom.
So, go ahead … wade in the water. Don’t be bound by shame for not meeting an impossible standard. God made you. Don’t get caught in the snares of comparing yourself with anyone else. Your body is good. It has dignity. Treat it that way. Treat other bodies that way. Our God is a God who cares for bodies.