Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 6:19-20
Bodily Spirituality: Five Reasons to Care
Are you aware that the Holy Spirit indwells our bodies and are therefore worthy of care and kindness? Our physicality relates directly to what we typically think of as our spiritual well-being. It is through our bodies that we do God’s will in the world. Our bodies are very integral to our spirituality. Body and spirit are connected, integrated, united. What happens to one affects the other. How aware are you that your bodily experiences are integral to your spiritual life?
Take 5 minutes to read and reflect about how God might be speaking to you about your physical well-being. The following five thoughts are adapted from Ruth Haley Barton and Dallas Willard.
- Caring for our body leads to stamina for life’s journey. Elijah was the recipient of God’s care for his body (1 Kings 19:7). At a point of physical and emotional exhaustion, the angel told him explicitly that taking care of his body was necessary for his long journey. The same is true for you as a pastor. A healthy body helps ensure stamina for the heavy demands of ministry over time. Our spirit needs our body even as our body needs our spirit. God knows this. Do you? Is your body in need of rest? Nutrition? Do you consider caring for your body less important than your “spiritual” needs?
- Spiritual formation requires transformation of the body (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p. 165). Our bodies only do what we give consent to over time. Our bodies reflect the quality of our internal life with Christ. Our outward life flows from the inward quality of our soul and out through our bodies. Bringing our bodies in alignment with the Spirit of God so we do God’s will in the world is possible as we cooperate with God’s grace. How aware are you of your bodily impulses and tendencies, e.g. food, workaholism, sexuality? Or do your bodily impulses and feelings control you?
- Life lived through our bodies provides unique ways to glorify and experience God. Paul stated that in the “earthen vessels” of our bodies we carry potential to glorify God (2 Cor. 4:7). We may experience God uniquely through eating meals, our sexuality, social relationships, exercise and more. Caring well for our bodies can heighten the quality and variety of ways we experience life with God and others. How aware are you of the variety of ways to experience God in and through your body?
- God speaks to us through our bodies. Our bodies are often barometers of the health of other aspects of our lives. Joy, contentment, & peace and depression, disappointment, & anxiety are all registered through our bodies. Our bodies often provide a dashboard of indicators of where we might need to pay attention to other aspects of our lives. We do well to care for our bodies when they speak to us; and we do well to care for the other aspects of our lives that our bodies speak to us about. What is your body telling you right now about other aspects of your life? Is your body telling you that it needs tending to? What can you do today to tend to your body’s needs?
- The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of all the reasons to take greater care of our bodies, none speak stronger than the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Together, they underscore the great significance and sacred nature of bodily existence. God became human flesh in Christ; the body of Christ was resurrected for an eternal bodily existence; God gave you your body through which to live your life and God will resurrect your body for eternal life with Him (1 Cor. 15). Without bodies—whether on earth or in eternity—we do not have human existence. Therefore, we should care well for our bodies. Do you view your body as God-given? As sacred? What we do with our bodies matters—what one thing can you begin to do today to honor God through your body?
For more information on these and other tips for mental health and well-being, see the following resources:
Barton, Ruth Haley. 2006. “Honoring the Body,” in Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our lives for Spiritual Transformation, pp. 209-245, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
Willard, Dallas. 2002. “Transforming the Body,” in Renovation of the Heart, pp. 159-177, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Here is a thoughtful article from Christianity Today on the need for an adequate theology of the body. While it addresses sexuality in particular, it is helpful in in considering the broad range of bodily experiences: God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Body, from Christianity Today, August 2011, Vol. 55, No. 8.
See Beth Stark for ideas and encouragement about caring for the body. Beth is a food and fitness coach who comes alongside those wanting to “reclaim their fabulous” and provides information, encouragement, menus, and recipes: http://www.reclaimyourfabulous.com/ or on Facebook: Reclaim Your Fabulous
Curator of content: Dave Higle