There’s a story, a set of rules and ideas that you’ve accepted as truth for your body and your sexuality. You might not even be aware. It’s ok, we’ve all done it.
But, what if we were to UN-do the story?
Authors Linda Noble and Linda Stewart join Josh on the podcast to pull apart the narrative and present you with an invitation to The Body and Personhood.
There are no rules here, just God’s heart for the human person you are meant to be.
There is an unrepeatable value about each person.
There is an unrepeatable value to you.
Let’s dive in.
We need to rewrite the paradigm. We need to go back to the very beginning and start over.
Actually, we are embodied persons. Our body expresses who we are and the things that we do with our body affects who we are and our person. So, we really need to change the message.
There’s a difference between our body being an expression of who we are versus an accessory.
Prayer for your body: “God thank you for this strong body that enables me to love and live and serve, to see that my body is not about my appearance but about how it expresses the love from God through my person. I pray those parts of my body that I feel ashamed of or wish were different, that I can see them now as the way I express God’s love to others and also to Him.”
Practice for your body to recognize others as whole persons: Retrain yourself talk to say, I see the whole person when I see my best friend. I see the whole person when I see my family members.
Practical exercise for your body: Model whole seeing by making EYE CONTACT, which acknowledges the person. Also, TALK about others as whole people when complimenting. We are more than the pimple on our forehead, or our stature or shape. Try using language for yourself and others that reflects what you see about the whole person (i.e. their kindness, patience or generosity).
Before The Sex Talk: A Theology of the Body Approach for Parents and Mentors by Linda Beth Noble and Linda Marie Stewart
Linda Noble, Ministry Director at Journey Community Church in La Mesa, CA
Linda Stewart, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Supervisor at Safe Haven Relationship Center in Carlsbad, CA
If you want to learn more, check out Josh’s latest writings on this very topic at, What You Do With a Bad Body
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
Before we dive into today’s podcast, I wanted to share with you a little bit about what we’re gonna be talking about. Today I share the podcast with Linda noble and Linda Stewart and I met the two Linda’s because we both reached recently wrote books for parents talking to their kids about sex. Their book is called before the sex talk. But if you’re not a parent, or if you’re single, or you’re not interested in that, hang on, because what we talked about today is illuminating for all of us, specifically regarding how we view ourselves as embodied people. I’m telling you, I learned some new things. And it’s got me thinking about who we are as people in some new way. So please listen, and I think you’ll you’ll benefit a great deal. Linda Noble is the ministry director at journey Community Church in Mesa, California, and Linda Stuart, as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the supervisor of the safe haven relationship center in Carlsbad, California. So here we go. So I do want to just start by saying, I, I really like your book, and I and, you know, we, I think we ended up writing books to parents around the same time is that, is that right? So? And initially, when when I got a copy, I thought, Yeah, I wonder how much overlap there is. But you guys, and there is overlap at the primary overlap, maybe kind of the love of theology, the body, but as a therapist, and educator, and I think also as women, the things you brought up, really were exciting to me. So I’m excited to be talking to you and excited that we can unpack some of the concepts in your book today. And this will be the first of others to I hope we can have more than one conversation. I think one of the things that’s been so meaningful to me about your book that you guys, you guys start with, and it’s interesting, but you did well into your book, before, before you even realize you’re talking about kind of a typical sex ed stuff, you spend a good bit of time early on talking about the body self, and which is really mean for anybody listening parent, single, adult, young person, male or female, I think is is actually a paradigm shift. That’s pretty different than the way that we typically think about our bodies. In our culture, we’ve grown up thinking about our bodies in a certain way. So can you like, like even Linda Stuart, you wrote, page 49, some of the earliest messages we receive, start with what can be a lifelong journey of separation and tension between ourselves and our bodies. So can you guys dive in a little bit and talk about like, what is the body self? How do we kind of what’s the grid that most people see our bodies through? Compared to what God designed them for? What we’re meant to see them through? Yeah. Okay. Very exciting. And if either of you need to add anything along the way, please jump in. Since we all love this. You’re exactly right. It’s a paradigm shift. And we tend to talk about sex, the body and relationships, whether it’s with children, or friends and family, without realizing the paradigm that we’ve accepted. Yeah, prior to those conversations. And we were saying, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, in fact, I’m really excited, Josh, because you picked up on a line that we often see in our workshop, which is, you can get through about half the workshop before we even start talking about, you know, the sex talk or anything like that. And that’s because we need to rewrite the paradigm, we need to go back to the very beginning and start over. And I think as Christ followers, you know, lots of times in churches, we’ve kind of just absorbed the cultural messages about our bodies, and then slap scripture or biblical teaching on top of it, not realizing that by absorbing a in the premise is false. But then that suddenly just kind of impedes the whole trajectory of this conversation. So back to what you’re pointing out is this idea that we kind of all might accept without questioning that my body is separate from my person you could hear, you know, people in faith based or Christian circles may be talking about how my body is just a shell, my body isn’t have anything to do with who I am. It’s just kind of like the window dressing. Well, that’s really problematic. Because a lot of our decision making and even the way that we view ourselves will start to inform how we treat our body, how we determine the choices that we make with our body. In other words, if you know where that could lead us, it doesn’t matter who I have sex with, or what even diet program I put myself through, because it’s not really affecting who I am, it’s just how I shape and conform or use my body more as a tool, or an avatar that doesn’t really touch my soul and my person and we’re saying, Theology of the Body is saying, Actually, we are embodied persons. Our body expresses who we are and the things that we do with our body affects who we are and our person and so we really need to change that message. Does that I’m going to stop there because a lot what? No, it’s so good. It’s so good. And I mean, I’m hearing I think their listeners going like Well wait, but wait, what, like how? So like, you guys, you guys pair this up? In the book, you talked about the difference between our bodies being an expression of who we are, versus being an accessory that we kind of put on or that we image and you talk about things like the clothes we wear and working out and diets and body image and stuff. So I think let’s get into the the kind of some of the practicals that a little bit because I think that might help people to understand the difference between how God views our bodies versus how we typically your body so what do you mean by our bodies are an expression of who we are? And how is that different from our bodies are an accessory If that’s one of the most challenging concepts, so I’m thinking as we’re talking with you over sound and video, and we’re engaging with you, Josh Glazer, you’re engaging with us the Linda’s. And even though something we’ve never considered before, there’s no possible way we could do that without our bodies. We’re hearing you with your voice, which is a part of your body. We’re smiling at you. You’re smiling. We’re engaging each other. And, you know, Christopher West, I think Linda noble might have to help me with this. He’s somebody who’s a great expositor of Theology of the Body, he would say, we can’t get to know each other. We’re not ghosts, you know? Ghosts are zombies. Zombies are bodies without persons and ghosts. Yeah. So your face Joshua, as we look at it is an expression of who you are. And we have never encountered you before, nor will we ever encounter anybody like you after. And the only way we can know that is by your physical body. It’s not separate from who you are. It’s an expression of who you are. Yeah, so So let me let me just kind of dig in there a little bit, because some people hearing that might go, that’s too bad. Because I don’t like my body. And I was telling somebody earlier today, like when I used to look in the mirror, and just kind of my face is at rest. When I was a young man, by the edges of my lips would curl up, it was kind of like a natural smile. When I do that, today, I look angry. I’m getting older, gravity’s pulling, you know, my body, like you’re so you’re looking at me when you’re looking at my body? So yes, it’s pushing to that a little bit. How do you respond to that I can, I can definitely relate to that, as a person who’s just, you know, giving up there in in the years, and have been really endeavoring to see myself differently. So if I noticed something about my body that I don’t like, what I’ve been doing is putting into a prayer practice, to say, God, thank You for this strong body that enables me to love and live and serve, to see that my body is not about my appearance, but the way that expresses the love that’s flowing from God, through my person. And the those parts of my body that I might feel ashamed of, or wish would be different, that I can see them now as the way that I express God’s love to others, and also to him rather than just defining them by what they look like, or what they even can or cannot do. So. Yeah, there. There is something in there about like, and I think even my question comes out of a recognition of how how much in our culture, we have come to understand are the worth of our bodies, and maybe even the worth of ourselves based on how our bodies appear. And so I remember the founder of our ministry saying years ago that he could see in, in the fitness craze that swept our culture, not a love of the body, but but a hatred of the body. Because we’re this kind of this, like, I don’t like my body. And so I need to work out so that I can like my body. Now, there, there are ways that exercise can be a love of the body. But I think what he’s pointing out was more like, you know, so I can look better. So that can be lovable. And you as you guys talk about, just mean theology, the body does, but you guys talk about that in your book about just the unrepeatable value of each individual person. So say, Say say more about that. I think Linda interrupted you, you’re gonna say something else? Oh, no, I’m loving this is like musicians or anything. Um, exactly. So we tend to dissect ourselves, right? Like you are looking at your smile and whatever Linda and I see I have scars that I really don’t like, and we tend to the fitness craze that you’re mentioning, will focus on a part of our body will kind of piecemeal it out. But just think about your loved ones like your children or your family members. You know, I I have scarring in terms of the I even had to consider what kind of swimsuits to wear and expressed a lot of concern about that until I realized my children do not see my scars. They just see Mom. Mm hmm. They look at me, you know, your children. Look at you. They see Dad, I look at Linda, I see Linda, I don’t see any piecemeal part Have her. And that’s kind of maybe another practical way of saying this, that we are encountering whole persons. When we look at ourselves, yeah, we might try to piece out parts of our body that we like or don’t like. But that’s not generally how we engage with people we love. So going from what Linda saying, and what theology the body says is that all of everything that’s visible points to something invisible, so our bodies actually image God. Yes, we’re unrepeatable, irreplaceable, indispensable images of God, but they’re also how we show and manifest as another word that people use his love. We receive His love, and we give it to others. And as you were talking, Josh, take it all the way I was thinking all the way to the end of life, I texted you and my grandmother was dying. And her body couldn’t do anything, she was literally lying in her bed in her assisted living room. And I texted Linda, oh my goodness, even in death, we are able to give and receive love. Mm hmm. Her person, her embodied person is still I look at her, I still see my grandmother. And her body is still giving and receiving love and I can give love to her. And that’s kind of the elevated view of the body that Theology of the Body invites us into is just this bigger picture of okay, what our bodies are not a shell. They are expressions of who we are and their vehicle. Just say that conduits of love. Yeah. And I think one of the ways to help us to think about ourselves differently, is to retrain ourselves in the way that we see others. So exactly, to Linda’s point was to start talking about how I see the whole person, when I see my best friend, how I see the whole person, when I see my family members, and even pointing back to maybe some very honest conversations, when we talk about how we met, when we first met someone, perhaps we did notice, oh, they have like a really big nose or look at their funny teeth or whatever. But then as we grow, to love that person, and know that person is revealed to that body now that those that person becomes very attractive and very valuable to us. And we’re not focusing at all on the appearance because it’s the whole person that’s been expressed through that body that we’ve come to love it and how, in those kinds of experiences, it changes the way we see that that person. And so really, it’s a matter of, of training ourselves to notice that, and then maybe even our kids to also start noticing how sometimes they are prevented from knowing a person I guess, adults as well. I put roadblocks in my way from knowing a beautiful person that God’s created because I’m focusing on their the appearance of their body, rather on a curiosity about who that body is expressing. Yeah, I mean, part of what you guys are, are getting after is there’s a confessional aspect like acknowledging our own blindness, our own inability to see ourselves and see other people as, as those unrepeatable indispensable image bearers of God that they are unrepeatable, irreplaceable, indispensable, is there another one because it’s so so there’s that kind of confessional, okay, like, I want to see a person here, but what I’m seeing is this deformity or this big nose or whatever, you know, whatever, that I might be criticized, or I’m seeing something that wow, you know, I’m, you know, I work with a lot of men who are wrestling with lust, issues of lust and so they struggle to see a person even when they’re looking at a naked body. And so we kind of we have to acknowledge our limitations, our blindness, our our nearsightedness, whatever it is and then there’s there’s a process of sanctification of where we in invite the Holy Spirit cooperate the Holy Spirit to see people differently to think about people differently to practice the the reality of what who a person is beyond just what we can initially see or see at first glance. Yeah, I like that word practice it becomes a practice this isn’t a finished line that anybody like Excel that perfectly to you guys in your in your advice to parents, you’re sharing some stories about like a you know, a little kid crawling all over, I think Maybe there’s one of your kids crawling all over you. And they’re young. And, and then you also think talk about even maybe first and adolescents wrestling with body image issues, trying to reframe some of those conversations so that, you know, if, if a kid says, Oh, I look fat, or, you know, my, I’ve got too many pimples like, they’re seeing something that their peers or others they may perceive are evaluating them by. And you guys talked about kind of redirecting that conversation or pointing out other aspects of the person’s of the person. Can you talk about that? Because I think there’s a there’s a practical kind of practicing that we might do for ourselves that we can help others do. When they get kind of focused on edge. Remember that part of the book? Yeah, and I think you’re right, especially in adolescence, that’s very sensitive. And then we kind of wanted to help even teens avoid that if we can intercede for children, when they’re really young. You know, it comes back to just how do we model over and over and over again, that we see the person of our children or a child that we’re interacting or caring for. So some practical ways. So I have a teen and a college student. And I’m always, you know, this comes from technology, but I think it acknowledges their person of just always making eye contact, like when I’m talking to them, making sure that my eyes aren’t drifting to, you know, other parts of their body or something, what they’re wearing, or No, I want to just see you, I’m looking you in the eye, I’m seeing your person, which is a practice ongoing. And then also talking about them as a whole person in terms of our compliments, you know, I there, this is so nuanced, because every family in persons different. But for example, in my family, there’s not the need for any medical reasons to focus on weight, or size, or Oh, you look so skinny today, or Oh, you look, you know, I don’t I don’t know that way is a really painful one for all of us. And so just choosing not to even that’s not a start or stop, that’s not a conversation, and we don’t talk about my husband and I the shape or size or hi or whatever, other people even around us just to try to model that. No, we’re seeing the whole person. And I’m sharing those as examples, while honestly knowing we’re not perfect at that we’re not great. And sometimes I stopped myself, like how do I engage my daughters who are living in a world that’s so focused on their physical appearance, I don’t want them to think that I don’t see them and don’t think that they’re beautiful as my children. But I also don’t want to reinforce messages that their beauty is there a currency that they can trade on, or that their value goes down, I’m worried I’m not seeing that very clearly. So what I think that’s true, I’m thinking of some practical ideas to help us out. But I think when our our kids, or even our friends, like my comment on a part of their body that they’re unhappy with, that we can say, That’s so interesting, because when I look at you, I see a kind person I see a generous person I see a loving person I see. And so we’re, we’re speaking truth back to them, like who you really are, is not your, your pimples or whatever problem that is coming out in your appearance, but who I really see this is the person that I see, and reinforcing that. And then I also heard someone suggesting, putting little sticky notes on on the mirror. So that when either you are looking at yourself or when you’re somebody in your household is looking at themselves, they can also see those sticky notes that say kind, generous, loving, funny, that is that is kind of helping them to integrate who they are when they look in the mirror rather than just their particular body parts and characteristics. So that’s the that’s the reframe you’re asking about Josh and I think it’s great to even brainstorm with your friends or family how you can do that because the reframe is always we’re taking it from focusing on the body and reminding of the person that that body expresses Yeah, and I haven’t been sure what you guys think about this but I I love that because it does it it loops in a holistic perspective of the person. And I love the I love what you’re saying about seeing that looking in the eyes. I love you know, it’s funny cuz when I look at you, I see because part of what you’re doing there is you You’re modeling for them, a greater love a bigger love, which is more of a Christ like God like love. I mean, we have so many examples in the gospels I think of, of Jesus seeing what other people weren’t seeing in the, in the last, you know, Jesus looked on the crowd and saw them as sheep without a shepherd. That’s what other people saw, or other people saw a sinner, other people saw a sexually immoral woman, Jesus saw something different. And often he had supernatural insight into something deeper about a person. The other thing I’d add to it, though, I do think that there’s there are ways that we can celebrate seeing aspects of the beauty of a person’s body that, like you guys have in in one of the stories about, I think it was a boy who had a surgery inside a scar that he was ashamed of. And you reframe that to talk about this, your body is sharing part of the story of the life that you’ve lived. I think about that with my with my wife, who we’ve had five kids, her her body’s been impacted by pregnancy. And, and so part of me practicing some of what we’re talking about is this, her body is telling a story of being a mother to these five children, and the sacrifices that her body that she bodily has given to our children. That is, that becomes something it’s not a liability. Now, this is a part of why I love her part of who she is, and part of the eternal story that that she will always carry, embodied in her in her flesh, whatever her her her resurrected body looks like. I mean, today, there’s an even when I was talking to before about, you know, my face and the down return of my lips. You know, there’s another part of me that you look at that say, Well, yeah, I’ve been through a lot. I’m not 23 anymore, like I, you know, my body has, has born some of the life that in some of this fallen world in ways that I carry in my body. And I honor that part of, of what I see when I look in the mirror, instead of you know, equating it’s just all negative. Because it’d be the the world’s idea about what appearance should be. So love that I think you should. That’s perfect. The story of who you are, is expressed through your body as well. And that’s stunning. I hope your wife listens to this. Yes, that was a very beautiful description, we might steal it from you. Well, it’s it I think we’re all we’re all trying to, to grab some of these things that are in the really in the in the airwaves from the Lord. And in in these conversations about Theology of the Body? Because we are we’re hungry for it. We’re all we are we we are sick with having digested so many other messages. And I think we’re all practicing and trying to learn, oh, God, like what, what is this mean? How could How could you look at my body look at me, and see something worth giving your body for? So well, hey, so we’re at a time. But before we wrap up any any closing kind of burning thoughts, I want to give you the last word like anything on your your heart or mind, like, you know, one other thought that’s kind of popped in your brain and one other place where you’re wrestling or thing you’d love to deposit before we end, I think one thing that kept coming to mind, as we were talking about the body self and how we see our body bodies and others and trying to see the person expressed through the body, that that is just so foundational. And that’s why we started that at the beginning of our book, because if I start to see those that are around me as body persons as persons that are expressed, that are through their bodies, that when I get into those moments when I’m in a relationship with someone, and it becomes romantic, I’m going to see that person differently. And I’m going to make choices that are different as a result of the fact that I’m not seeing them as a body as something to use as some for my own maybe self esteem, like look at the hot chick that I you know, drew in or something to use for my own pleasure, but I’m seeing that that person as a whole person and a person who is of great value. I’m going to treat them differently. If I’ve really established the fact that the the people person is expressed through that that body and they are a person of great value. So really starting to help ourselves first, understand that that concept of body self, the person is inseparable from the body is really key down the line in further conversations regarding sexuality and our choices around our sexuality. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, so gosh, okay. I’m holding my tongue because I you just got into so much good stuff there. So, thank you for that though. And actually, it’s good that all my time because I think some of what you said I, it was kicking in for me to some of my own relationships was like, Oh, actually, I think I probably need to receive that. So thank you for that.
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