Crunchy and grey, the surgical gown aggravates my skin like the seam of a sock crumpled against my toe. Here lies my petite frame, swallowed beneath a supposedly one-size-fits-all covering and vaguely warmed blankets—the after-effects of my slight body causing big problems. Heavy from anesthesia, my eyes weigh as much as the curtains hanging on the windows. Attempts at regaining my faculties are slow-going.
Two nurses to the right.
Husband to the left.
I love him with all my guts, and now I love him without all my guts too. . .
Consciousness is visceral. Nurses squeeze and prod my limp torso, attempting to bind my wounds. It hurts. Circumstances often hurt more before they heal. “She’s as thin as a whisper—as thin as a minute.” The uttered inconvenience of my size flutters uncomfortably in my ears as the medical staff cajoles my nauseated body into submission. Eventually I’m cocooned so tightly that I’m not sure I’ll ever break free from the binding were I to become Lazarus arisen himself.
Thin as a whisper, my mind echoes. I adore the imagery. Yet I loathe being identified with something that barely has reason to exist.
“You’re so skinny, you must eat like a bird.”
“I wish I had that problem.”
“Real people have curves.”
“Are you sure you don’t have an eating disorder?”
“Real people do not have thigh-gaps.”
“That’s just how God made me,” is my well-worn diplomatic reply, knowing it’s he who intentionally knit me together in my mother’s womb. Not everyone is appeased by this, a message conveyed clearly by resentful side-eyes and sighs.
I’m a grown woman, still barely holding down triple-digit poundage, possessing that thigh gap at which you may have rolled your eyes. But since real women have curves and certainly do not have thigh gaps, my humanity is devalued via off-handed jokes, memes, and the occasional kidding (but not really), “I hate you.” What is this evil inside us that demands we tear down our fellows to build ourselves up? We’re like the tower of Babel reaching toward heaven by the power of hell. Why do we beg God to remove our bitter thorns all the while harboring them as self-preserving weapon commodities? Every beautiful, broken body is an image bearer, after all.
The communion table is arranged before the altar, “Do this in remembrance of me” deeply scrawled into the wood. Silver trays close in on me in slow motion down the row: a symbol of Christ’s broken body.
The tray approaches. I pass, attempting to focus my mind on the visible grace of Christ’s redemptive work. But in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder what our pew mates think about the wife of one of their pastors declining to partake in the elements. My body’s reactivities forbid participation today. It feels like mutiny.
“This is his blood, poured out for you. . .” Gnome-sized chalices are filled to the brim, successfully exemplifying surface tension without the loss of a single dribble. I pass again, lamenting. Communion is sacred. There is an inexpressible holy ache when one’s hands are left empty as it passes by.
Something is amplified in the tension of this moment: Jesus knows what it means to have a broken body and empty hands. He beckons, “Come, scars splayed open and all.” Bound securely to his holiness in our healing, our self-image reorients around the image we were always intended to echo. He disentangles resentment, pulls out the toxic thorns, and covers us in a banner, proclaiming our worth even before we’ve completed recovery. Becoming vulnerable to the exhaled breath of the Spirit indwelling our bodies, his breath in our lungs, that’s where we know our place: a limitless space as thin as his whisper.
Cover photo by Kristina Flour.