Monday, February 25, 2013

The Home of Your Soul on the Earth (in which I take up drinking for Lent)


"The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace  . . . The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression.” – John O’Donohue in Anam Cara

The weekend before Lent started, I noticed that I’d fallen into an old habit of not eating, getting by on half a piece of dry peanut-butter toast in the morning, for lack of time and focus, and often skipping lunch too. I had stopped getting groceries – really getting groceries – aside from dribs and drabs of necessities.  Meal preparation fell by the way-side as well, so that dinner was a continual mad-scramble as I pulled things together for one more meal. 
Soda consumption – my Achilles heel – was up too.  Back in seminary a daily diet coke poured over ice and served with a slice of lemon was a treat, a symbol, if you will, of self-care in some deluded sense.  But lately I was up to two-a-day and I’d given up using glasses.  In a moment of stress or frustration or simple thirst I would grab for the trusty can, no longer even hearing the satisfying crack and snap of the tab-top lifting, no longer tasting the welcome bite.  
I stood behind the refrigerator door gulping and placed the open can on the shelf, returning at-will for a short, bracing nip of caffeine and carbonation.  Drinking soda like that is like drinking wine straight from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag – sly and empty, pure need and no delight.  Give that woman a glass, I thought, as I saw myself in a rare moment of self-awareness. 
There were many years where I wouldn’t have noticed these things.  I’ve always had a tendency to neglect my body, to live in the lofty penthouse of my mind, conveniently removed from the dust and dirt, the tumult of daily, embodied, life.  I turned a deaf ear to my body for a long time and I’m lucky I’ve not paid a higher price for my neglect.  Something about three pregnancies, though, and the long-haul commitment of nursing four little bodies into strength and health, forced me to listen more closely to my own body, if only for the sake of those little ones it grew. 
I’ve never been a good friend to my body, never been a lover of it, but this year I’m sensing the invitation to listen more closely, to care more deeply for the gift of this frail tent that houses my soul.  My “one word” for 2013, as best as I can tell, is “embodied” and rather than mortifying the flesh as I have for these many years this Lent I’m embracing the call to care for my body as an extension of the body of Christ. 
This year I’m subtracting nothing other than my own disdain for the needs of the flesh.  I’m listening more closely to this dwelling place, this home for my soul as O’Donohue calls it, this sacrament of flesh and blood.  And, as a symbol of all of this, I’m drinking water. 
I’m learning to observe the dryness of my mouth, the signs of thirst that were among the first things I knew as an infant and, perhaps, among the first I put aside when I thought I was old enough to outgrow the needs of the flesh. 
Standing in the kitchen, where the sunlight pours through these old double windows lighting up floral-fielded blinds, I reach for a glass.  I lift the handle on the faucet and watch the water flowing like a stream of glistening light as it dances in the sun’s illumination.  I catch the dance in my cup and watch as it is filled, wait as my hand bears the weight. 

Turning off the tap I lift the glass, clear now, but weighted with light and life.  Then, placing my lips to the glass, I swallow down this dancing stream of life.  I gulp, pressing myself to embrace what is necessary but doesn’t necessarily come naturally. 
Looking out through the bottom of the glass as this small, shining river flows into me, I see a world sparkling and shining with refracted light.   As I drink, I think of Christ in the desert and the thirst he bore, both there and on the cross, and I know that I’m somehow more present to him as I become more present to my own body. 

This post is shared with Playdates With God and Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.

22 comments:

  1. Oh my, I'm doing this too. Trying to drink more water, less soda and eating well. And then there is exercise - ugh. Love the way you conveyed the message to take care of your body.

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    1. Thanks Shelly. Trying to learn to listen again, really, to hunger and thirst, fatigue. Seems essential to the spiritual life really. Blessings on your "drinking" :).

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  2. I'd offer that the Y is a great place to care for your holistic self - reltional, emotional, spiritual, physical - in community. Now, beyond self-promotion... great post. Kristin and I are attempting to give up a few things for lent that at best distract or at worst become poor substitutes for what's life-giving. Well done.

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    1. I'll send you an invoice, Matt, for the ad space :). Praying your ability to listen to your own deepest needs and desires will continue to grow this Lent!

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  3. Kelly,
    You've put words to something I've struggled against for years--decades, really. Thank you, thank you for writing this story. I've never been able to articulate it so clearly.

    Stopping by from the (in)ked group. And I'm so glad I did.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Sheila. I'm glad it resonated with you.

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  4. I remember how it felt when I was pregnant--this compelling need to care for the body that housed such precious cargo. I never loved myself more, or felt freer to do so. Sometimes it can feel selfish to me to tend this flesh and blood and love the body in which the Holy Spirit resides. Yet God loved us enough to send his son in a human body--thus elevating ours to so much holiness.

    Thanks for this, Kelly.

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    1. Yes, Laura, the twin pregnancy nearly did me in, I had to be so careful to listen to my body because failing to do so put me at risk for early delivery. And you're right, the fact that God came in the flesh should change everything for us, but it seems like our culture disdains anything it can't control. We esteem sports heros who "use" their flesh and whip it into submission, but we make fun of pregnant women and others who make way for bodily processes that ultimately can't be controlled. Maybe our obsession with the flesh as a culture is just the opposite side of our disdain for it.

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  5. Beautifully written, honest, and real. Love it!

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  6. This is beautifully written! There is something intimate about the water nourishing life, nourishing self-image, nourishing this earthly temple, something tender in the provision, in pausing to notice the "dance" and beauty of something we so often take for granted.

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    1. Thanks, Cindee. Yes,self-care is one of our most intimate forms of love, yet how often I neglect it!

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  7. oh, your body will thank you for replacing the soda with water. mine does, when i make said choice.

    gives me energy, wards off headaches . . . good stuff.

    love how the changes we make for Lent can come in so many forms, yours is certainly not the least. blessings!

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    1. Yes, I'm finding that for me it's really about listening to desire and being open to it, whether it's for water or prayer or rest, etc. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. praying for the full fill
    refreshing, renewing, recreating

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    1. Lovely. The living water that satisfies.

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  9. my body and yours share an affinity for soda and a too-long reprieve from water. i sit here drinking my second Dr. Pepper of the day, and i think now, "hmm, perhaps some water might be good." going to get myself a glass with some ice, and going to refresh myself with water for the night.

    beautiful.

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    1. Yes, do get yourself a glass! Notice, though, that I didn't give up soda, didn't prescribe a certain number of glasses of water, just decided to listen and respond to my thirst. This is a new and freeing thing for me, whereas in the past I would've felt more comfortable with rules and regulation. So, I still get through the afternoon with a diet coke when I need to, but I'm listening to my thirst too. There's so much grace, who says we can't find God in a can of soda too?! Peace to you, Rachel.

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  10. I've always loved those times in life when I took the time to really think about what I was eating or drinking. Sometimes things get so hectic I forget how important it is to feed the mind by feeding the body well. Glad to have this reminder to reflect.

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    1. I guess it's the curse of affluent modern culture- we are so busy we don't enjoy life. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. oh girl. this is wonderful. and it's perfect for the meme i've started on mondays: "A Dare to Love Yourself." you are learning to love yourself, and it's BEAUTIFUL.

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    1. Thanks, Emily for stopping by and for ALL you do over at your blog - thankyou for making it a wonderful place to connect!

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