Monday, May 6, 2013

Body and Spirit – Aspects of the Same Thing?

We’re starting a new book discussion over at TheHigh Calling today, reading The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation by Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold.

As I read the introduction, my first reaction was something close to dismay. It almost seemed that the book was going to be a spiritually correct (translation: political correctness with a veneer of theology) approach to obesity, slow food, and other aspects of the current food movement.

But I trust Laura Boggess, our discussion leader, and I kept reading today’s assignment – the introduction and first two chapters. So far, my first impressions were incorrect.

The Life of the Body is focused on the connection between the physical and the spiritual – our spiritual life and our physical (bodily) life. And there is a connection – Jesus took on the physical body of a human being from conception to death. And we are part of the body of Christ in both physical and spiritual senses.

We’re told that the body is a temple, a picture of the the body of Christ. Paul uses the metaphor of the body to describe the church, with Christ as the head. We know we will have redeened bodies in heaven.

The point of Hess and Arnold is that there’s a strong connection between our physical and spiritual selves. They’re not identical, but they are strongly connected, and perhaps to the point of being interwoven.

Outside of scripture, we know that regular exercise is a good thing, not only for our physical well-being but for our mental and emotional well-being, too. We know emotions can wreak havoc on our physical bodies – anger, stress, and upset can affect is in powerfully physical ways.

Our physical and spiritual well-being is not an either/or proposition but a both/and reality. We can’t neglect either one.

One of the exercises the authors suggest at the end of Chapter 2 is to look at yourself in the mirror and note what you see – and critically examine what the physical might say about the spiritual.

So this is what I see when I do that,

I see someone who needs to get back on his bike, if he could inspire himself enough and if it would stop raining on weekends. About 15 to 20 pounds need to be shed.

I see someone who is physically stronger than he was a year ago, helped by twice-a-week appointments with a personal trainer.

I see someone whose eyes reflect almost three months of non-stop stress at work, who’s doing way too much and needs to let even more things go.

I see someone who is very tired.

We’ll see where The Life of the Body takes us. So far, the journey looks hard and soul-searching. It also looks necessary.

To see the discussion and posts by others, please visit The High Calling.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

1 comment:

Laura Boggess said...

It's nice to read that you trust me, Glynn :). I felt pulled to this book because of some observations I've made recently about how my relationship with God seems connected to my physical state. Not to say that I have to always feel good to stay connected to God, but I know when I make poor choices such as overeating or staying up too late my quiet time suffers. The authors seem to be taking this even deeper and it is giving me much to ponder. There never seems to be a black and white situation with God, does there?