Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The body

A few weeks back, I took my stepkids down to my brother's Nazarene church. He's a youth pastor there, and he was preaching that Sunday. Before I go any further, I have to say, his sermon was brilliant. My baby brother has turned into quite a guy, and I'm very proud to know him.

And while there, the wheels started to seriously turn. I've been mulling it over ever since.

One thing that was weird was how foreign that service felt to me. I grew up in an Anglican church, then went Evangelical non-denom for quite a while before quitting church (though not the faith) altogether for a while and then becoming (though not official yet) Orthodox. It was strange to struggle to find goodness and truth in a church, but I did in his. Struggle, that is. And find it, actually, eventually, also. I told myself over and over at the beginning that it's not for me to be a connoisseur of churches, that all goodness and truth is God's goodness and truth, and not to miss it by it being buried in a bunch of "stuff" that I just don't understand anymore. But it was hard and uncomfortable and foreign, and so much of what they assume is so far off the mark as to be downright harmful to a person trying to learn to love God and neighbor.

But the first thing that hit me is this. We sang the song "Breathe" which at one time was a very meaningful song for me. And I have to say, my heartstrings immediately shot down to a little town in Virginia to a woman who is very far away and so very very dear to me. And I said a prayer of thanks for her - for who she is and who she is to me. She is a giant in my life and in case you're reading this, B, I love you. Consider yourself hugged. But my dear friend, that song is empty for me now. God is simply not so far away, and I can't pretend He is, and I won't imagine He is, and I couldn't sing a song that created more space than it had ever diminished. Desperation is not an emotion I experience when it comes to the presence of God.

And that was the first stunner.

And then I started thinking about what redemption is, and how it happens. Or rather, how it's happened for me.

And I've come to this. Bodies are very important things. Holy things, even.

I sat in the church, listening to my brilliant brother, with my stepson under one arm and my stepdaughter's head on my lap, and I thought about the miracles that were nestled up next to me. It is hard to parent them. It's not what I imagined in all my rosy daydreams, and stepparenthood is not what I had planned for myself. I wanted my own children. (Silly thing, I had to lose one to learn that she would have only been "mine" in a very limited sense. She would have always been God's first, her own second, and mine only third, and only for a while.) But those two little people in those two little bodies are absolutely essential to my working out my faith with no small amounts of fear and trembling. They are the rolling pins that are working out so much of the selfishness and impatience that wrinkles me up inside.

And I thought about my own body, and what I know about it, and how I'm learning to forgive it for failing me, and love it for carrying me, and be in amazement at how much it can actually do. I ran 5 miles yesterday - the last one for fun. For fun. My body has yet to give birth to a new life. But it is presently birthing itself, and it's amazing to watch.

And I thought about the Body of Christ that I am finding growing up around me. I don't have a church right now, but I am surrounded by the Church anyhow. My friends are incredible people, and each random one of them is absolutely beautiful.

The body is a holy thing. I need to remember that these days.

And, I'm just now coming to this. I think I've figured out a way to better explain why that song fell so flat for me. When God is searched for only in a certain set of experiences, and even when those experiences are so carefully constructed and perfectly presented, we certainly may find Him, but we only find a part of Him. How can we expect to find the fullness of the infinite in only one of the gifts He has sent? We can't. And we will be left unsatisfied, desperate. We are found, saved, redeemed, made whole, made joyful, made ourselves, made His when we seek and find Him in all the gifts He has sent. He is certainly in the the wistful beauty of a sunset and the power of a song. But He is also in the drops of sweat that roll down our back, evidence of the body that is breaking and being made new. He is in the friends with the wrong background and the wrong lifestyle choices. He is in our bodies, the Body of his Church, the body of gifts he sends, and (Christmas is coming!) His own Body. We are complex creatures and can no more survive on one kind of spiritual nourishment than we could survive on only apples, healthy and delicious and good as they are.

God is not so far away.

O world, as God has made it
All is beauty
And knowing this is love
And love is duty
What further may be sought for?
-Robert Browning