Imaga Dei

My brother complained recently that my blog is too often about “women stuff.”  Well, he’s right. I write toward a holistic body theology from my perspective as young, white, female, married, member of the 99%, seminarian, and writer — just to name a few descriptors.  I don’t speak for everyone’s experience. I can only speak for my own and hope that some part of my story may inspire, inform, or challenge part of yours.

But lovely readers, today is an especially “women-stuff-filled” day, so prepare yourselves.  If you are a woman, perhaps you will find something of yourself in the post below.

If you are a man, I hope that you will keep reading and recognize within yourself as you do the way you feel as you read on.  Do you feel somewhat excluded? Do you find yourself doing some mental gymnastics to get at the part that relates to your own experience?  If so, then you are on your way to discovering what it’s like for women to experience God in a patriarchal framework.  My hope is that you will find the experience useful in your own spiritual growth.

*****

If you follow my profile on Goodreads, you’ll know that I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd‘s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.  I could have quoted half the book for you, but the following passage stood out to me as particularly necessary to inform our holistic body theology.

In Christianity God came in a male body. Within the history and traditions of patriarchy, women’s bodies did not belong to themselves but to their husbands.  We learned to hate our bodies if they didn’t conform to an idea, to despise the cycles of mensuration–“the curse,” it was called.  Our experience of our body has been immersed in shame.

Let me interrupt to say that the understanding that patriarchy has had a negative impact on female body image is not a new idea for this blog.  We’ve touched on this idea here, for instance, and here and here, and even here.

This negative impact must be recognized as a lie and uprooted so there is room for planting new understandings of the body that are more in line with the truth about who we are as human beings: male and female, together we are created in the image of God. 

We’ve talked before about how the foundation of holistic body theology is our identity in Christ, but this truth is much more difficult for many women to embrace on a heart-level and experience in their own bodies than it is for men because we first have to break down the gender barrier.  We have to “enter into” our identity as the image of God “in a new way,” through an embracing of our physical selves.

Waking to the sacredness of the female body will cause a woman to “enter into” her body in a new way, be at home in it, honor it, nurture it, listen to it, delight in its sensual music.  She will experience her female flesh as beautiful and holy, as a vessel of the sacred.  She will live from her gut and feet and hands and instincts and not entirely in her head.  Such a woman conveys a formidable presence because power resides in her body. The bodies of such women, instead of being groomed to some external standard, are penetrated with soul, quickened from the inside.

I’ve been working on this process for a long time.  At my awakening to the need for this “new way,” I struggled to give voice to my experience and name my pain.  Now, I am still in the process toward accepting the truth about myself in my physical being and experiencing God in myself in this new way.  The journey is not complete.  There is more work to be done.  One day I trust that I will be able to see myself fully — both spiritually and physically — as the embodiment of God, the imaga Dei.   

This is where I am on my journey toward holistic  body theology.  Where are you?

What did this passage stir up in you?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below, or drop me a line on Facebook or via email: bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.

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About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on January 14, 2013, in Body Image, Equality, Identity, Image of God, Physicality and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I don’t like the term “sacred feminine,” only because it reminds me of the sort of New Age/Dan Brown hogwash that passes for spirituality in some circles. Still, I always enjoy learning more about the female perspective. If I’m going to be an author of any value, I had better understand a woman’s perspective or suffer the fate of Schopenhauer, whose thoughts on women are, frankly, hilarious in their ignorance. Granted, I will always have some trouble understanding women. Just as I will have trouble understanding men. We’re all individuals who defy group definitions. Still, women do have their own body of challenges which I can only try to comprehend, even if I cannot identify fully. Anyway, I love reading your blog and hadn’t noticed any particular “women stuff” slant.

    • Hi William, thanks for stopping by! I agree with you that terminology like “sacred feminine,” “divine feminine,” and “goddess” carry a lot of baggage. I put off reading this book for quite a while for precisely that reason. In the book, Kidd talks about how she learned to strip away the negative connotations attached to these terms until what remained was the most basic definition: God in feminine form. I don’t know that I’m quite there yet, but I aspire to pull away those unhelpful connotations (many ascribed by patriarchy) until I can think about “God” and “Goddess” in the same way, as male and female representations of the Great I Am. That said, I think it’s great that you put so much effort into understanding and valuing the female perspective. If only there were more William Brusts in the world!

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