On the treadmill, I set the time and increase the pace. Music pumps in my ears as I propel my legs on the machine to keep up with its demands. I push my boundaries and test this body of mine. I measure its output and assess its progress in preparation for the half-marathon in April.
Weight-lifters bend and stretch and grunt in front of mirrors. Trainers roam with their clients. People everywhere are trying to care for the bodies they’ve been given. Some work with desire to change it, to tweak it, to reach after some satisfaction. Some work with the desire to recover, to return to health, to make their tired bodies work another day. Some are living to make it work and some are making it work to live. The irony abounds as we stand next to one another on the treadmill.
My run ends and I cool down. I do a little weightlifting and strength training before heading towards the locker room. It is there that the weight is lifted. I watch some women step on the scale and look in the mirror. I wonder what battles they are fighting with their bodies. I watch some women move slowly with the help of canes. I wonder how they perceive their bodies as they struggle to get dressed and worry about being knocked down by young people moving with too much haste.
I stand in awe and wonder of the human body. Its beauty is seen most clearly in these moments for its endurance, its perseverance, and its weakness. With the moments of clarity, I remember why it is so hard to see the body for the beauty that it is. I confess the part I play in this modern life and I reject our modern day diminutive approach to the human body. I reject the notion that its only value is in conformity to cultural standards of beauty and in its sexual exploitation in the name of advertising and patriarchal power.
Dimply legs and bouncing arms. Scars and lumps and limps. Beautiful. I see the beauty in these bodies that wear the weight of the years, carry the marks of wounds past, and tell the stories of the ways our human bodies nurture families and friends through the ups and downs.
The beauty calls out the irony of this modern human life of ours… that we fight and curse our bodies all our lives long, only to find that it will be the one that grants our last breath and the one that loved ones gather round to say goodbye.
The weight is lifted from my shoulders. Illusions of judgment and physical standards fade away. I remember that productivity, efficiency, and hard work will not save this human life of mine. I remember that this body of mine is not mine, but a creation by the Creator. As the ancient Hebrew metaphor reminds me, I am merely the renter of a land that is not my own. The Land Owner is the one who created this life of mine and the one to whom I owe it.
I pause and give thanks for this moment and this human body, for better or worse, to the glory of its Creator.