This week was Blast from the Past Week during which I posted a few of my theological reflections on readings from a class on “Women in Church History and Theology” back when I was in seminary.
For today’s Forward Friday, let’s engage theologically with some of the following issues. What resonates with you? What makes you uncomfortable?
Remember, it’s important to know what we think about things and where our opinions and beliefs come from. It’s also important to know what other people think and where their opinions and beliefs come from.
Iron sharpens iron, people, so let’s get to rubbing!
- what does the Bible say about “a woman’s place” and how should we interpret it?
- are women good like Mary or bad like Eve?
- is God feminine?
- what is a woman’s true nature and does it preclude ministry and leadership?
- is the silence of women contextual or prescriptive and is there room for exceptions?
Come back by and leave your thoughts in the comment box below. If you blog about it, be sure to share a link!
This weekend, try using the Bible as a conversation-starter. As you converse with someone who does not agree with you, remember to:
1) Listen before you speak.
2) Learn from the other person’s perspective.
3) Be willing to be wrong.
4) Explore both the boundaries and the space between through your conversation.
5) Look for ways for the current conversation to spark future conversations as you build a relationship with your conversation partner.
Come back and share your experience with all of us. Let’s learn from each other how to be conversation-starters.
If you missed it yesterday, read Part 1 first.
Running in place vs. running a race
But if we end the conversation, then what have we gained? We might stay safe; we might feel righteous and satisfied at having the last word. But what have we really gained?
Being a conversation-ender is like running in place. We might be the fastest, fittest, most well-trained athlete in the world, but if we only run in place, we never get anywhere. It’s much safer to run in place than to enter a race. But is that safety really worth more than the risk it takes to enter the race and be willing to find out we’re actually not as fast or fit as we thought? What does running in place really gain us?
Ending the conversation
Rachel Held Evans spoke recently at a Mission Planting conference about her upcoming book A Year of Biblical Womanhood where she said, “I believe the Bible is meant to be a conversation-starter, not a conversation-ender.”
Growing up in the conservative South as a black-and-white Presbyterian, I prided myself on being able to end conversations with the perfect Bible verse. You can’t argue with scripture, right? I carried my Bible with me everywhere because I wanted to be prepared to give an account for the hope that I had. Cursing? Sex? Watching TV? I had a Bible verse for everything, and I felt safe and secure in the knowledge that I was living the right life.
But then I entered high school and began to be friends with people who didn’t live the right life at all. In fact, they didn’t even care about what the Bible said! I didn’t know how to have conversations with people who didn’t honor the word of God as perfect and authoritative. For the first time, I wasn’t ending the conversation. They were.
Listening before speaking
As soon as they saw the Bible I faithfully carried with me everywhere, the conversation was over before it ever began. So I put my Bible away for a while and began to listen.
I listened to my high school friends. I read their stories and poetry. I played their games. I entered their lives and watched how they engaged with people. I took note of what was important to them. I listened not only to their words but to their lives.
In college I kept listening, mostly because every time I opened my mouth I was slapped down and criticized as that-intolerant-conservative-Christian. I began to understand how I had wounded others with my Bible-verse sword, how I had cut out their tongues with it and counted myself righteous for doing so. I had wounded others growing up as I was now being wounded by my professors and fellow students. I listened, and I learned how it felt to be uninvited to the conversation.
Then I went to seminary.
To be continued tomorrow…
Since December, I have seen four different doctors and had ten separate appointments. I have undergone multiple tests and procedures–all to rule out causes of my unexplained fatigue. Now the doctors are at a loss. Perhaps I have chronic fatigue or some other nebulous disorder or syndrome. Such things are difficult to diagnose. But I think I know the real cause of my fatigue.
God as Surgeon
My spiritual director once said that experiencing God’s healing is sometimes like having a surgeon perform complicated, invasive procedures while we are under anesthesia. When God is doing this kind of healing, she said, it would be too painful and scary for us to be awake and aware of God’s work. So we are put to sleep. Then when we awake, our bodies are exhausted and need rest to complete the healing process the Surgeon began in us.
At the time, her analogy didn’t really resonate with me. I was in so much emotional and spiritual pain that I did not know how to let go and rest, allowing God to do the hard work. I wanted God to show me what needed to be done so I could do the work myself, understand exactly what was happening, and remain in control.
Looking back, my attitude was as ridiculous as my telling a doctor I wanted to perform my own open-heart surgery. Not only do I have no medical training, but I also would not be able to survive the experience of cutting through my own flesh. The pain would be too great, and the procedure would be too complicated. If I needed open heart surgery, I would have to trust the surgeon to do a good job. I would have to be anesthetized during the procedure, and then I would have to rest and allow my body to recover afterward.
God as Teacher
Ever since I completed my degree in 2008, God has been teaching me (ironic, no?) how to rest. I have slowly been learning how to let go of my over-active drive to DO–to be an achiever and to be productive. I’ve been a terrible student, I must admit, but God is an ever-patient teacher.
Despite my resistance, God performed a great work in me in the past few years, one that I am still not completely sure I understand or know the effects of. Now, my surgery is over. I have left the operating room, and the anesthesia has worn off. The hard work is done, and I’m awake!
Physical and Spiritual Rest
My body has been telling me for months that I needed to rest, and I just could not understand why. After stumping half the doctors in this town, I think it’s safe to say that it’s time to give up BEING AWAKE. The surgery may be over, but the spiritual healing process has only just begun.
Now I must endure a new season of recovery. I must allow myself to feel the effects of God’s work in me and give myself time to adjust and heal. That is how I choose to spent this season of Lent. I’m giving up my DO-ER spirit and allowing God to complete the good work begun in me.
So for Lent, I will sleep as many hours as I can. When I am awake, I will rest in bed as much as I can. My fast may not look very difficult or spiritual, but it is both. I am relinquishing control (again) and allowing God to take care of me–mind, body, and spirit.
For today’s Forward Friday, and to wrap up our two-week foray through Flora Slosson Wuellner’s Prayer and Our Bodies, I thought we’d conclude with another of her suggested guided meditations for daily living.
I have always been a big proponent of what I like to call “bathtub spirituality,” in which some of my closest and most profound encounters with God have come while I was in the bathtub. Maybe I’ll write a whole post about it sometime, but for today, let’s experience prayer with our bodies through the daily act of…
How precious is thy steadfast love, O God!…They feast on the abundance of thy house, and thou givest them drink from the river of thy delights. For with thee is the fountain of life. — Psalm 36:7-9
Thou visitest the earth and waterest it, thou greatly enrichest it. — Psalm 65:9
As you drink the morning’s first water, as your body cleanses itself inwardly through elimination , and as you wash your outer body, become appreciatively aware of this refreshing, pleasurable cleansing. These are healthy, holy experiences and are meant (as with any act of holiness) to be enjoyed. Water on the body is an ancient, sacramental symbol of God’s love and healing flowing out to human beings and to all living things. Many people find that they pray best and most fully and can feel God’s response most clearly when in the shower!
Try this simple mediation next time you’re in the shower, and leave a comment in the box below to share how it went. Blessings on your bathtub!
I have a confession to make. I’m not a very good activist. I’m not politically-minded, and I don’t enjoy creating or participating in demonstrations or rallies. I believe that issues of social justice and creation care are important and that, as a Christian, I should work for them. But I’m not good at it.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to explore Wuellner’s book with all of you, and I’ve enjoyed and resonated with every chapter…except this one.
Chapter 9: Prayer for the Body of the Earth
As she did in Chapter 8 with the human body and embodied community, Wuellner draws parallels between the human body and what she calls “the body of the earth.” She writes, “Our earth body, with its atmosphere, its water, its soil, its shrubs, trees, grass, animal life, is as much a bodily self as we are.”
Wuellner suggests that, as we often do with our own bodies, humankind has treated the earth with disdain and disgust: “At best, we have taken it for granted, used it, manipulated it. At worst, we have assaulted it, ravaged it, and, for immediate gain, destroyed many forms of its life with careless unconcern, poisoning its air, water, and soil.”
That sounds like a social activist‘s speech, doesn’t it? Next, we expect to hear some pithy catchphrase like “Save the Whales.”
But Wuellner takes a different tactic. As a professor, ordained minister, and trained spiritual director, Wuellner is much less interested in taking up The Cause and much more interested in a holistic discussion of bodily prayer–one that includes prayer for the earth that Genesis tells us God gave into our hands to maintain.
In fact, Wuellner suggests that part of the empowerment we feel when we experience healing is a desire toward creation care: “As we relate anew to our bodily selves, we begin to feel an urgency to relate anew to the body of our earth.” She takes a step further to suggest that the “earth itself, even as our bodies, needs our healing and prayer as much as we need its healing and prayer.”
Wuellner takes care to remind her readers that concern with the well-being of the earth is not a new concept in Christian history and theology. She quotes a reflection from Hildegard of Bingen:
Does not humanity know that God
is the world’s creator?
With nature’s help,
humankind can set into creation
all that is necessary and life sustaining.
An Open Door
Are you an advocate for social justice and creation care? Would you like to share your experience? I’d like to establish an open door, through which any of you lovely readers are welcome to step by way of writing a guest post that explores the service aspect of body theology. This is a standing offer, at least for the time being. If you’re interested, please send me your submission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not ready for a guest post? Drop me a line in the comments below to share your story.
Since we’ve been touring Flora Slosson Wuellner’s book Prayer and Our Bodies this week, let’s try one of her suggestions for this Forward Friday. If the one below doesn’t resonate with you, be sure to check out this week’s posts for other ideas.
Remember, whatever activity, meditation, or version you choose, that the important thing is not what you do but how you do it: “When receiving God’s gifts and nurture through the senses, it is essential to be deliberate, aware, focusing upon each event, receptive to each sensory experience in its uniqueness.”
Take a parable walk
Here’s an activity from Chapter 5:
Try taking a “parable walk,” in which you set out with no special agenda, asking God to show you something that will be meaningful, relevant to your problems and feelings. Whenever I take a parable walk or suggest it to members of a retreat, there is always something observed or experienced that is helpful. It is not usually something sensational. Other people may have noticed nothing, but it seems significant for your life. It might be something about a cloud, a tree, a door. It may be the way a tree is shaped, what an ant is doing, or how a bird is sounding. It might be someone’s face, the way the breeze feels, or the way a dog is barking. but here will be something God wanted you to encounter. Perhaps it will evoke a memory whose time for healing has come. It may offer guidance for an unsolved problem. It may give you the inner nurture you need. You may be comforted or become aware of a new insight. You may be enabled to laugh, to weep, to love, or to release.
Then come back and share your experience in a comment below.