Heavenly Body

I am as athletic as a brick.

My body isn’t built for sports. When a young me attempted P.E. class surrounded by my lankier classmates, my long torso and squat legs rendered me a penguin in a flock of road runners.

Fat doesn’t distribute itself evenly across my landscape—it pools below my waist, storing itself in the space between my ankles and my ribs. If I could do a handstand—which I’ve never been able to do—I’d be top heavy.

My feet are functional. They’re broad, long, thick jointed, with an irregularity of the metatarsals contributing to a bulge on the inner edge of both feet. My second toe creeps past my big toe at every finish line; thanks to a genetic quirk, there’s a half inch difference between the ends of my first and second toes. This half inch hampers my gait enough that I’ll never be much of a runner. I’m always tripping over these flippers that I’ve never managed to grow into.

Sprouting from these podiatric nightmares are a pair of ankles like the trunks of oaks. Never destined for the delicate willowiness so arbitrarily required to qualify a woman’s legs for loveliness, these sequoias have never twisted or broken. They are not aesthetic marvels by any means, but they are practical and they are strong.

Ascending northward, we arrive at my legs. These wooly mammoths bear the bulk of my bulk. Despite years of distance running, the muscles linking bone to sturdy bone hide under layers of dimpled insulation. Squats, sprints, deadlifts, lunges, bartering, begging, threats, tears—nothing can diminish my twin behemoths. Stretch marks provide evidence for a few tectonic shifts over the years, a testament to the miles I’ve traveled with my slow, steady trot.

The landscape flattens after the waist. A thinner layer of insulation protects the lean muscle under my skin. My upper body strength is minima—pushups are only a recent development in my life, and pull-ups an impossibility. But because my upper body is as lean as my lower is stocky, my arm muscles are able to show themselves, and they look impressive. Now, they only look impressive—they are the biological equivalent of McMansions, all show and not much substance. At least not yet.

From head to hobbit feet, my body is as incompatible with athleticism as a fish is with a bicycle. Yet I drag this body—so incompatible with action and energy and very compatible with couches and naps—to the nearest track, gym, or trail five days a week without fail and force it to move. Even unathletic brick-bodies like mine need maintenance. There’s no such thing as a body that shouldn’t move simply because it does not move as well as others.

I like my body. It’s a comfortable home. It’s taken me on trips and climbed tall mountains. It looks good in sweaters. It can carry all of the groceries in one trip. I am teaching it to lift heavier, to run faster, to run longer. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s.

I am not made to run. I am not made for sports. But I am made to honor my Maker. No matter my build, I regard the construction of my earthly house as providential as the seasons. It is my home, and I take care of it. Like Eric Liddell, “when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  Not because I run as well as anyone else, and certainly not because I run better than anyone else. But because He gave me legs that work. And even a run can be an act of worship.

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