Over recent months, I have been experimenting with spiritual direction focused especially on one’s relationship with one’s body. Ordinarily, anything is fair game for bringing to spiritual direction. And while this is still the case with this physical focus - the conversation may lead in any number of directions - the invitation is to pay particular attention to the ways in which God is meeting you in your physical experience.
As for all of us, my own experience of being in my body has not always been easy. Awakened to my sexuality at an inappropriately young age, I learned to disassociate from my physical experience. As I tried to deal with what had happened to me, I navigated more than a decade of disordered eating which was a symptom of emotional pain that coalesced in my physical experience. All through these years, I was going to church and trying to follow God. And I had no idea of how He might walk with me in the truth of my physical reality, no idea of how to find Him in those places of trauma, chaos and self-loathing.
Slowly I discovered that God reached into my experience in my body, that my body could be a place of meeting with Him. In fact, I came to see that all of my spiritual experience takes place in the context of my embodied state! I experienced physical security and closeness in ways that became healing for me. I birthed a baby and felt that delivery room to be a place of divine encounter. I learned to offer the comfort and presence of my own body to my children in their moments of anxiety, which led me into a deeper experience of the way God makes Himself available to me too. In these ways and many more, I have been learning how my spiritual journey and my experience of being in my body interface with one another.
Others who pursue this focused spiritual direction do so for many different reasons. Some are facing limitations in their body and want to explore how God might meet them in that experience. Others are mothers with young children, in a physically demanding season of life, and wondering how they might take care of their bodies as part of their Christian formation. Still others are facing, by virtue of age or illness, a physical transition into a different season of life and want to do so with awareness and intention. For most, it is a new thought that God is with them in their physical experience, inviting them to a place of holistic formation. Could it be, we wonder together, that the abundant life Jesus said He came to offer us is for our bodies too? And what might that look like, as imperfect as we are?
I have had the privilege of working with some truly extraordinary people. Together we have explored the ways in which spiritual formation takes place; the ways in which we, as God’s redeemed people, come to greater maturity. In all these years of considering the wonder of what we are called to be, and the ways the Spirit of God is at work among us, I have met very few people who consider their body as part of that process of transformation. In fact, many Christian workers routinely deny the needs of their bodies and come to their middle or later years spiritually strong, apparently, yet physically depleted.
This raises many questions for me. My principle question is around what might possibly be the intentions of a loving, redemptive, Creator God for His embodied people. I have the feeling that it might be more, way more, than we have ever thought.
It makes me think of something Paul said to the church in Corinth: “God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of His purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out His best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene … No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it— what God has arranged for those who love Him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by His Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.”
If you’d like to explore how God might be inviting you to new ways of relating to Him in and through your physical experience, then message me via the contact page and we can set up a time to chat!