My August “pause and quietly think about” turned out to be more of a “work like crazy for three weeks and then go on a road trip.” I didn’t get as much time for silence and reflection as I had planned, but what I did get was a whole seven total days without one single moment of work.
My husband and I drove almost 3,000 miles on our road trip through central California, northern California and Oregon, went on one backpacking trip (one night), enjoyed seven different hikes (eight if you count walking along the smoky rim of Crater Lake), stayed in four different hotels, and visited with two sets of Oregonian friends — transplants from Chicago.
My brain got a glorious break from all the rushing and working and pushing and preparing I squeezed into three weeks before our trip.
But my body — oh my!
Here’s the thing I like about body theology. Since I first heard the term, sitting in that little third-floor classroom at Fuller Seminary about midway through my program, my world has opened up. I have been pushed and stretched and challenged to think about my body, my SELF, as part of my theology, as a full participant in the spiritual encounter of God in my life.
The thing I like about body theology is that it keeps me grounded. It reminds me that the ordinary, the physical, the tangible, the real, the messy, the mundane, the accessible — this is all part of how we were created to experience the fullness of life and completion of joy that we have been promised.
Theology seems like a heady, ethereal, intellectual, intangible mist that we grasp for but can never really, fully reach. Theology is such an distant, academic word.
But body theology brings all that misty intangibility into focus, gives it form, makes it grasp-able in the most literal sense. Body theology is something we can hold onto.
As Matt and I hiked up and down mountains, slept in tents, wandered behind waterfalls, slogged through flooded meadows, drove miles and miles and miles (and even through a tree!), I wasn’t having intellectual epiphanies about my spiritual life or about God.
I was using my muscles.
I was pushing myself uphill till I nearly had an asthma attack.
I was lugging a too-large, half-empty backpack I borrowed.
I was squirming in the passenger seat.
I was being lulled to sleep by the motion of the car as the miles peeled away under our speeding bodies.
I was alternately pushing sleeping-Matt and getting pushed by sleeping-Matt out of the too-small beds in our cheap motels.
I was racing the sundown to the top of a mountain.
I was stretching my sore legs and eating breakfast for lunch and snapping an unmanageable amount of digital photos and listening to a good book being read badly on audio CD and enjoying being on vacation with my husband and hanging out with his Chicago-to-Oregon friends and blowing my dripping nose on wads of toilet paper as we hiked under tall pines and complaining that my back was killing me and massaging my husband’s neck as we drove and a thousand other mundane, ordinary, regular, unexceptional, physical things that mean that I’m ALIVE and DOING something outside in the world with other people.
It’s easy to live in my head because I work from home and have very limited community in a town we are still adjusting to living in after just over a year of settling in. It’s easy to live in my head because I’m an introvert and a writer and prefer digital communication over picking up a phone.
Mostly it’s easy to live in my head because there is still a part of me that believes that in my head is where I will meet God, where I will mentally understand and logically decide and cognitively interact with the intangible-spirit-being that I grew up loving and seeking and learning to find with my mind. Faith seeking understanding.
That part of me is still pretty big and loud and commanding of much of my time and energy. But the part of me that is small and quiet and unassuming, the part of me that gives instead of takes, the part of me that is learning to rest and be instead of work and do, that part of me — the part that woke up the day I first heard about body theology in that little third-floor classroom — that part of me found its voice this past week in the mundane and ordinary, in the exercise and outdoors and movement from place to place.
That voice isn’t as loud or commanding as the voice of my head. But oh, how it sings!