I mentioned in my last post in the body series that God's first response to my prayer to learn how he views my body and to teach me how to view it, too, was to give me a freelance assignment of editing a health book and that this led to writing down my health goals for 2012.
The second way God responded was to give me another work-related assignment.
I was at my dear friend Kirsten's house one day in mid-December, and I happened to check my e-mail on my phone while I was there.
In my inbox, I found an e-mail from the editorial director of one of my favorite magazines. We'd been discussing some possibilities of work I could do for the magazine, and she'd recently invited me to write a 6-part study guide for a book they would be sending to some of their subscribers. She needed some time to decide which book they were going to use, so I'd been waiting to receive word from her on that point.
The day I was at Kirsten's house was the day I found out the book they wanted me to use. And it was, as you might already have guessed, a book about the body. Specifically, it was called Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith.
Pretty perfect, no?
As soon as I read the title of the book in the e-mail, I let out a really loud hoot and then covered my face with my hands. "Of course it is," I said. "Of course that's the book they want me to use."
When I shared with Kirsten what was going on, she walked over to her bookshelf and pulled another body-related book off the shelf. It was called Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality (pictured above in blue), and she said I could borrow it to further help me along in my journey toward understanding the body.
As it turns out, Kirk and I already owned a copy of that book, and so I decided to take it with us on our holiday trip to California.
I am so glad I did.
While Kirk and I stayed at a retreat center for three days at the beginning of our holiday, I read the introduction and first chapter of Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality.
It totally started blowing my mind, filling me with new thoughts and questions related to the body that I discussed with Kirk and also put down in my new journal.
Below, I've listed out the initial (huge) thoughts that Kirk and the book prompted me to hold, and which I have continued to hold ever since.
- Offered by Kirk: "Everything I know about you is mediated through your body." Even though we know each other at a soul-deep level, we only learned that could be the case through interactions our bodies mediated in the first place (talking, e-mailing, holding hands, enjoying experiences together, intimacy, etc.).
- Furthermore, it is only through the body that we know anyone. I know all of my friends through their bodies -- their voices, their facial expressions, their mannerisms, what they choose to share with me in conversation or things they write.
- God encased all of creation in a body of some sort (ie., matter). There is something about created matter and bodies that God saw fit to make. And this got me wondering: What is "good" about matter and our bodies?
- To become like us, Christ had to assume a body. There is something fundamentally human about having a body.
- A question inspired by the book: Do we "have" a body, or "are" we a body? The book offered this quote by Stephanie Paulsell: "Such is the mystery of the body. Sometimes we know that we are our bodies, that our capacity for life and death makes us who we are. At other times, we feel that we simply inhabit a vessel that is inadequate to contain all that we are."
- And perhaps the most transformative question that I encountered of all: Are our bodies meant to experience formation, just like our souls are?
That last question is one I've been carrying with me for two months now.
From a simple line in the book ("being transformed and glorified in [our bodies]"), I started thinking about spiritual formation and how intensely and single-mindedly I focus on and care about the formation of our hearts, souls, and minds.
But what about our bodies? Maybe our bodies are also meant to form over time.
And if so, what shape are they meant to take?
It's a question that's kind of been blowing my mind ever since, and totally rocking my world.