In the letters I wrote this week, I felt an awareness of the whole body. I wrote letters to mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, grandma, and grandpas. My church is sending letters of encouragement to the congregation and to our community. John and I volunteered to help write some of these letters.
As I wrote, my words were a prayer. I don’t mean to say that the words I wrote on the cards were prayers (although some were), but that the physical act of writing was a prayer. My prayer flowed from my heart, down my arm, through my fingers holding the Sharpie, and out by way of the teal ink. My head was not detached from the process, but after months of writing practice, I have learned to tune out my brain and self-editing pesterings to get the writing done.
I found myself drawn again and again to the whole body and the five senses of the body. I wrote about the senses in benediction or blessing-like manner because it sounded beautiful, but also because it was the truth. Perhaps it was because the Holy Spirit was guiding the prayer, guiding the words. Maybe a benediction about experiencing God through the senses was what the letter recipients needed to hear and to remember.
After I finished, I wondered, “Is it cruel for me to ask the people I wrote to notice with the whole body? Because it’s sort of hard to notice with the whole body.” Now, as the world is falling apart and it sounds like things won’t be back to regular for quite some time, for 4-5 months or even longer. Is it okay to ask them to notice with their whole body now? Is it unfair when there’s much going on? At the same time, wasn’t there much going on before this 2 week turned indefinite stay-at-home order? Wouldn’t it have been unfair then, too?
So, I suppose that whole-body awareness thing isn’t a quarantine or stay at home thing. We can agree that I’m not a big meanie and that this is an always thing. It’s an always thing to experience The Lord using each of the unique senses He’s given us. Because, that’s ultimately what I’m getting at, that’s ultimately what I was asking and praying for the letter recipients to do and know. I’m not asking you to only become aware of yourself even though becoming aware of yourself is part of the work.
You must first slow down long enough to notice. You must quiet in what Sara Hagerty calls the “middle minutes” of your day. You must be in solitude. Yes, solitude where things are scary and where you meet the parts of yourself you’ve hidden because they aren’t well-behaved enough to be taken out in public. You must quiet. There. There is where you can engage with God using the senses He’s given you. He gave you a whole body. There is where I think and hope and pray you’ll be surprised by Him, His love for you, and how He shares Himself with you.
Eventually, I think it won’t even feel like quieting to notice yourself—what you smell or taste or touch or see or hear. Eventually, it will be like realizing you’re using your senses that were created and given to you by Him. They’re from Him. You’re noticing Him by way of what is from Him. It will simply be like noticing Him. There’s not a lot of self in that process.
In losing the self, we find Him and then we find our new self. If we’re lost in our identity or in an identity crisis, we should look for Him. He’ll point us to our identity which points directly back to Him. Our identity is that Christ is in us. Our identity is that Christ saved us. Our identity is that we are children of The Lord. And we can experience Him in our whole body with all of our senses.
I recently finished Handle With Care by Lore Ferguson Wilbert. She talks about touch and bodies and ministry. Her book is where some of this thought on using our whole body to engage with God is coming from. In her book, she talks specifically about touch and how loving touch can be a ministry. Jesus interacted with so many people through physical, loving and redeeming touch. What would it mean for our communities to touch in that way?
What would it mean for us to gently recognize and become aware of Jesus’s ministry and The Father’s work with our whole body?
May you see His beauty in unexpected places.
May you tangibly taste His sweet goodness.
May you hear His loving voice, calling you by name.
May you touch and be drawn all the more into love for Him.
May you smell His heavenly aroma throughout your days.
May you become more aware of Him in you and around you as you quiet and as you engage your whole body.