Fathom Mag

Embodied Persons

A column by Abby Perry

Published on:
March 5, 2018
Read time:
2 min.
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I hurt people I love this week. I suppose we all hurt people we love every week, if not every day. This time stood out, though, for many reasons, one of which was my reaction to it all. As I spoke to the dear ones I’d inadvertently but clearly wronged, the same words kept pouring out of my mouth.

I just think I do people more harm than good.
I hurt others more than I help others.
I am really not worth this.

I’d been hinting at this mindset for the past few weeks, even before I realized I’d caused pain to people I love, people who were quick to forgive, who see me with eyes far more loving than I see myself. The truth is that I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, and I believe I deserve to feel that way. My personality is not stereotypically female and that bothers me more than it should. My frequent withdrawal into my mind and the world of ideas often signals to people who want me to be near that I prefer to be far. 

My personality is not stereotypically female and that bothers me more than it should.

And that’s the thing, really. I don’t think in terms of me being near or far. I don’t think of there being a me at all. 

The fantasy that calls to me, promising only good and omitting the bad, is that I can be just a conduit. I don’t have to have presence or substance—I can just have words or ideas come to me and pass through me. I’m happy to give them to other people. But I just want to be the pass-through—I don’t want to be, or offer, me. The me who I don’t trust, who perhaps I don’t know, and who I regularly dislike—she hates the simple reality that she is embodied, that she is a person who is here, in time, worth knowing, touching, beholding. She struggles against the unassailable truth that a savior delighted to take on flesh—the thing she is so desperate to be free of—that he might draw near to her.

Recognizing oneself as an image bearer in whom God delights, admitting wrongdoing, and accepting forgiveness are fundamental habits of the type of belonging I’ve told you I am here to write about. I’ve written about repentance before, about not commodifying one another in our pursuit of community, about ability being separate from the inherent value of a person made in the image of God. And yet, here I am, wincing at the fact that I’ve often attempted to apply those truths to everyone but myself.

All I really know today is that community is for selves, not for conduits. We are at once earthen vessels and embodied persons.

The ground beneath me feels dry, like it has poison in the soil, toxic vapors wafting up from the dirt. I can feel it shifting beneath me, and maybe the new ground will be a bit softer, not quite so dry, trading toxicity for nourishment.

My life is not and has not been all dry ground. I have known nourishment, growth, new life. But now there is a moment of hitting a new layer of hard dirt and longing for the softer ground, even as it’s terrifying to consider walking upon it. 

All I really know today is that community is for selves, not for conduits. We are at once earthen vessels and embodied persons. For some of us, that’s easy and obvious, and for others, it’s so hard that we want to give up and consider ourselves only a mind, perhaps only a heart. But if we’re going to love one another, we’re going to have to be persons—mind, body, heart, and soul—never perfectly in tune with all parts of ourselves as we walk a broken earth, but intent on following Jesus in true incarnation. And we’re going to need one another’s hands to grab as we step onto new ground.

Abby Perry
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and Upwrite Magazine. She is a co-host of the Shalom in the City podcast with Osheta Moore and coordinates communications for a non-profit organization. Abby co-facilitates community efforts in racial reconciliation and in support of foster and adoptive families. She currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary and lives with her husband and their two sons in Texas. Find Abby at her website and on Twitter @abbyjperry.

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