Saturday, May 31, 2008

Our Bodies Matter to Jesus

As some of you may imagine, one of the most frequent search engine terms that bring readers to my blog is the "sensuous"+"posted in blog". I clicked on this search this morning, and found a daisy chain of beautiful thoughts which I will share with you today.

The first link that caught my eye was "God's Sensuous Prescence". Y'all know, I am all about God and all about sensuous, so of course I was curious. This beautiful article is what I found:

"Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking Him in the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense. The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body."

At first glance this sounded at once beautiful and potentially sacreligious. Because when my woman-who-was-sexually-abused brain hears the words "an object for the senses", I recoil. But there was that beautiful phrase "in His great love took to Himself a body" and I believe that lock, stock and barrell, so I deliberately let go of my CSA thoughts and took another closer look. And what I saw astounded me with it's beauty.

I visualized my beloved Jesus extending his hand to Thomas, such a human loving inclusive gesture all by itself, and then he speaks "don't believe it's really me? Touch me. it's me, Thomas. Touch me, and remember all the many other times you touched my hand and were comforted. It's me. really. Touch me, and believe."

Of course, by then, poignant tears had gathered in my eyes and I was on board with the phrase "He became Himself an object for the senses." Oh yes he did. And there's my favorite name for Jesus too, Himself. A gift with purchase. Confirmation.

I wanted to hear more, so I clicked on the link provided by the blog author Eric Daryl Meyer (shown here with he and his wife. look at them! aren't they precious?)

This took me to Faith and Theology, a guest post by Oliver Davies. And what a treasure trove I found there!

Get a load of this!

"We constantly treat Christianity as though it were a philosophy or a work of literature (I am not against philosophy or literature) rather than a disclosure to practical intellect which calls us into the radical freedom of action in and for Christ in the world (i.e. the ascended, wounded and glorified Christ). Faith is faith in Christ who acts rather than thinks."

Seriously, y'all. I don't wanna just be smarter. I wanna be CHANGED.

Wait, there's more.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be opened up to the revelation of Christ in the world, communicated through command at work through the senses and the particularity of space and time events ("the command of grace", in Janz's phrase), we focus on the mind as the place of insight, generativity and meaning.

I'll tell you what this means to me. All my life, up until the point of my spiritual and sexual awakening, I thought it was true "Spirit good, mind good, body bad." I really did. As hard to believe as these words sound now, coming from from a woman who experiences God in every orgasm and feels the sweet nearness of the Spirit in every cool breeze on my sweaty face when I run, I used to really believe that. The condition of my heart, the condition of my marriage, the quality of how despised or cherished my sexuality was to me is a living lab test of what those ideas look like in behavior. When I believed my body was bad and my mind was good, I shrank from every touch from my husband and generally rolled my eyes at the depravity of man every time he got an erection. I'm not proud to admit it, but that was my reality. Oh but I was a good Christian girl who "selflessly ministered to her husband" by laying there and taking it. What a martyr! Not even good enough to be called a real martyr either, like Jim Elliot or the first disciple to be stoned to death, because I was laying down and dying for a cause that was contrary to scripture and so FAR from the life of joy God had called me to! What a senseless wasteful non-God-honoring martyr.

But you know my Jesus, he loves us just as we are and loves us too much to leave us that way. Read on.

"And here the third problem arises which follows from the first two: we have lost an understanding of the way we can and should access and be attentive to the presence of Christ in this way. We constantly bypass with mind the very place in which he is present for us in the here and now, which is to do with the senses and with command, since this is a place where the mind does not necessarily want to go."

Yes! Yes! Yes! I used to do that all the time, and folks, I'll tell you why. Because of my own sin and the sin of others, my senses were associated for me with sensations of pain, emotions of pain, shame, doubt, fear, self-loathing and just an overall sense of "ugh get me outta here". Maybe some of you can relate.

But here's the good part. Jesus still lives. And His Lordship in the nitty gritty details of our lives is the way we are to live not just as prescription (take 2 pills and call me in the morning) but as invitation. Invitation to the path to healing we are walk (come walk with me this way my darling and let me heal you, my love). That's my paraphrase and I paraphrase it that way because I have lived it that way. This is the path I've been walking for 16 years.

Oliver Davies puts it this way:

"Getting it" entails seeing that incarnational revelation still comes to us through the senses ("Jesus still lives, and his Lordship in the particularity of our lives is the mode for us of that life"), and that the senses cannot be absorbed without remainder into mind. Thus ascension allows that our faith in Christ can be far closer to that of the apostles than we might ordinarily admit, not on our own account, but on account of the nature of the transformation effected in Christ. Doctrinally (theologically) and anthropologically (philosophically) we have lost the tools and practices which help us to "recognise" him in his transformed state in the everyday reality of our lives where he comes to meet us.

As so often happens in my reading since the internet, I connected the dots between three unrelated poets and writers that from my point of view seem tailor made for each other. On one hand we have these brilliant intellectuals—theology professor no less!— saying in essence, "Excuse me, everybody. Something precious has been lost. And I'm going to do my darndest to show you what and how and show you why and more importantly, show you how to get it back."

For as I read the scholarly article, I remembered the last time—the only time—I've heard a scholar talk about these ideas. It was when I heard Christopher West speak about Theology of the Body at a Created and Redeemed Seminar. I remember Christopher's main point being "Jesus had a real body and our bodies are important because God Almighty thought to inhabit one so we should believe our body is important too and inhabit it well and with truth and honor." That is my paraphrase after attending the 7 hour seminar. (By the way, I do not believe that using birth control violates this cherished concept, since I believe any lovemaking between a husband and wife has the fruit of pleasure and oneness if not the fruit of children) So first as I'm reading, I'm reminded of Theology of the Body.

And then, I'm reminded of the song I sang in church last week. The song that so grounded me and comforted me by reminding me that every area of my life matters to God and is inhabited by God. The song that gave me opportunity to respond to this newfound hope and comfort by pouring our my adoration upon Jesus, or as we say in the South, "singin' my little heart out". Listen to this!

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

God in my resting
there in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

be my everything
be my everything
be my everything

God in my hoping
there in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
there in my breathing
God in my hurting
God in my healing

be my everything
be my everything
be my everything
be my everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me
the hope of glory
you are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me
the hope of glory
be my everything

be my everything
be my everything
be my everything

be my everything
be my everything
be my everything

God in my hoping
there in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
there in my breathing
God in my hurting
God in my healing

be my everything
be my everything
be my everything
you are everything

So yes, beloved friends, our bodies matter. They matter to Jesus too, as he—by living in us—inhabits our bodies every single day. And everything we do in these bodies matters very VERY much! If it's sin that we're doing with our bodies—slapping our children, abandoning our husbands in the marriage bed, or using drugs or food or the absence of food to numb our aching hearts— we need grace and healing to get to the root of that sin and let Jesus heal us. And if it's not sin that we're doing with our bodies—laying our cool hand on our child's fevered brow, welcoming our husbands and drawing them into our body with passion and tenderness, or caring for and cherishing our bodies in beautiful small ways like eating with gratitude in an attitude of self-care—then we are in the acts of doing these very things, bringing the hands and love of Christ into our world, which is a humbling, immensely gorgeous thing to think about.

Isn't it?

Love,
SW

Epilogue:
Parenting
Once in the course of my life as a mother I lost my temper and slapped one of my children. It was listed as a sin in the article and also listed as a sin I am living in active repentance of. I don't refuse my husband anymore or do emotional eating anymore either. I don't believe there's a mother alive that hasn't lost her temper and slapped her child once or been sorely tempted to do so. But my experience of losing my temper like that disturbed me enough that I took myself to a licensed marriage and family therapist and learned some better parenting strategies. I also took my child to a child therapist and got some treatment for them and we're all doing much better on that regard. The licensed marriage and family therapist who treated me counseled me that my unresolved guilt over slapping my child that one time was far harmful to my effectiveness as a parent than the slap itself because that guilt gave me a propensity to cave into their demands and not keep firm loving boundaries. I hope any parent who reads my story will not hesitate to seek wise counsel for their parenting challenges.

Singles
I want to cherish my single readers by saying that there are many beautiful ways use use our bodies to bring the hands and love of Christ into our world, many many more than the 3 ways I listed. The reason that drove what I listed as ways to bring love is that I began with listing 3 ways I personally used my body to sin and 3 ways I used my body to repent and to love. You're not excluded, beloved darlings, or exempt from embodying the love of Christ just because you are not a wife or mommy. Never meant to imply that, beloved. Not in a hundred years did I mean to imply that. (squeeze your hand and look you in the eye for good measure) Love, SW

7 comments:

Who am I said...

This is awesome. Thank You.

Leah said...

Wow... that was beautiful - thank you so much for that reminder.

Sometimes I forget how much God has shown Himself to my senses. Those times are the most amazing feelings... through music, through the changing of the seasons, through my husband's touch, even through food! Hhahah.

That was a beautiful reminder.

Sensuous Wife said...

You are welcome, WAI.

so are you, leah beloved first time commenter. I visited your blog and enjoyed what I saw. I tried leaving a comment twice but it never showed up. Wanted you to know I tried. Your screenplay style of posting is charming.

ericdarylmeyer said...

SW,
Thank you for the link--I am glad that God blessed you through it.

Athanasius is a pretty cool fellow, I'm glad that you found his words inspiring (1700 years after he wrote them, nonetheless). In addition to living in exile in the desert with many of the first Christian monks, he also (nearly single handedly) preserved Trinitarian Christianity in the face of Arianism...

God's peace,
Eric

Cocotte said...

Re: your Epilogue

I don't for a minute believe that there's a mother out there who hasn't lost her temper with her children. For many, this happens on a daily basis. We are all guilty of bad parenting at one point or another in the course of our lives as mothers & fathers. Glad to hear that the therapist gave you some good strategies. It's such a freeing experience to ask your children for forgiveness. Mine have always graciously accepted my apologies and we have moved on.

Sensuous Wife said...

Cocotte, your post brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of just such a moment of grace and forgiveness between me and my child. They had gone through their crisis of belief wondering if God was real because they were struggling intellectually with creation/evolution. I told them, "I'll be glad to learn the science stuff along with you but Mommy knows God is real without science."
"How?"
"Because grace is real. Everytime Mommy messes us and God give me grace and you give me grace, I know grace is real and so I know God is real. And baby, I really need grace to be real."
"I love you mom" (hugs me)

I have tears rolling down my face just remembering. Even in weakness and frailty, God is so real and present and relevant.

BigMama said...

Great article. I too have used this body for bad and it is indeed freeing to allow it to be used for good. I admire your courage and candor. May you and your family continue to walk in freedom and in joy!