How do we define what physical experiences are also spiritual experiences? It depends on our perspective, motivation, orientation, and intention.
So, likewise, in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to doing everything there for the love of God, and with prayer upon all occasions, for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy, during fifteen years that he had been employed there. (14)
Further, he talks about the denial of the flesh for the support of spiritual pursuit as having little positive effect in itself. Rather, it was his orientation toward God that had positive spiritual effect:
That all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless, except as they serve to arrive at the union with God by love; that he had well considered this, and found it the shortest way to go straight to Him by a continual exercise of love, and doing all things for His sake. (15)
Not everything that happens in our physical bodies has spiritual benefit– and likewise, not everything that we attempt in our minds has spiritual benefit. What makes our actions and efforts spiritual is not whether they take place in the physical or mental world but whether they are oriented toward God.
In this way, eating lunch can be spiritual — or not.
Reading scripture can be spiritual — or not.
Washing dishes can be spiritual — or not.
Going to church can be spiritual — or not.
Taking a walk can be spiritual — or not.
Praying can be spiritual — or not.
Having sex can be spiritual — or not.
Singing a hymn can be spiritual — or not.
Even farting can be spiritual — or not.
I don’t know about you, but I have had some of my most profound experiences of God while sitting on the toilet or lounging in the bathtub. It may not be the most “appropriate” setting for meeting the Creator, but our God is not as disturbed by our basic bodily functions as we might have been trained to expect.
When we engage our bodies and minds together in an orientation, a mindset, a focus toward opening ourselves to the counter-cultural and unexpected work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we might just be surprised at the avenues God uses to reach us with words of grace, mercy, conviction, and kindness.
Just like Brother Lawrence, we can learn to experience God while we are performing our least preferred tasks — like washing dishes. God is ready and willing to meet us in whatever moment we are available and listening — whether we are sitting in the church pew or passing gas in the privacy of our boudoirs. There is no situation in which God is not capable of entering and showing us more of who God is and who we are because of God’s presence in our lives.
So next time you let one go, take the opportunity to let God speak into and through the basic, bodily experience of being alive in Christ.
You might be surprised what God can do with a little breaking wind!
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
You wanna be like Mary, but in reality, you’re like Martha. Believe me, lovely reader, I know how you feel. I’ve been there, and I’m back there again.
So if you’re a Martha and wanna be like Mary, what do you DO about it?
Here’s a little exercise to try this weekend:
- Recognize your gifts, passions, and personality. Understand and accept who you are. God made you that way for a reason. God likes you like this!
- Recognize how you are feeling. Are you worried and upset? Are you critical and judgmental? Are you jealous of people who seem to have an easier time sitting at the feet of Jesus?
- Identify what is motivating you right now. Are you distracted by the preparations? Are you busy with things that seem necessary but really are not needed?
- Take it to God. Mary and Martha both went straight to Jesus. They just had different catalysts for their encounters with God. Maybe being stressed and overwhelmed by the tasks of your day can be used to turn your attention to the one thing that is truly needed.
- Allow God to redirect your focus. Where should your time and attention be right now? What is truly needed?
Maybe sitting at Jesus’ feet isn’t your natural state of being. Maybe it takes work. It was work for Brother Lawrence, St. Ignatius, and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, too. That’s why they devoted so much time and effort toward cultivating their focus toward God.
If you’re task-oriented, make time with Jesus one of your “tasks” for the day. Maybe it’s your only task for one whole day, the only and best accomplishment. If you like lists, put time with Jesus on there along with runs to the grocery store and calls to clients.
And if you’re not like this at all, if you’re naturally a Mary, well then…
YOU ROCK! We all wish we could be more like you. Don’t let ANYONE take away what you have chosen. God promised you could stay right where you are at the feet of Jesus, and God will defend you! You just keep on sitting.
For the rest of us, put sitting on your list. And then DO it.
And then come back and share your experience in the comment box below.