I’ve just had a revelation. One of those, I’ve known this in my brain, but suddenly this is getting into my gut sorts of things. One of those this isn’t new, but every once in a while, I need to be surprised by the truth of it things: I belong to God. All of me. All aspects of me. Even my body.
For a very long time I have been interested in physical well-being and its relationship to spiritual well-being. As I get older, I find it more and more important to treat exercise as a priority, a non-negotiable part of my day. Not because I’m not going to win any medals. I just want to be able to do the things I feel called to do, and exercise helps keep my heart and mind centered, focused, and open.
So, thinking about how I care for my body is not new, but this hit me with a new vividness recently: it’s my responsibility and privilege to care for my body as part of being a good steward. That is, as part of using all that God has entrusted to me to care for on God’s behalf for the service of the world, I need to take care of my body.
I’m really good at taking care of things that belong to other people. I’ve been trustworthy with the money, buildings, time, and resources entrusted to the parishes I’ve served. I am a great tenant, taking really good care of the places we have rented to live in. I more easily, more joyfully, take better care of other people’s possessions than my own.
But then it hit me (as I was wiping down the countertop in our friends’ kitchen, making sure to get every square inch absolutely perfectly spic-n-span), that I do not belong to myself. I belong to God. In taking care of my body, I am taking care of something that actually doesn’t belong to me.
What if I care for myself, including my body, as if I am taking care of something that belongs to a dear friend? Because it does.
What if I take care of my body as if I am caring for something that is very important to someone very important to me? Because I am.
What if I remember that this embodied self is not a no-strings attached, it’s yours now, do whatever you please, sort of gift, but something on loan, held in trust, something for which I am accountable? Because it is.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)
I’ve understood this with time, talents, and treasure–they’re all entrusted to me to be used for God’s purposes, including to bring me pleasure. They’re tools, not idols, and remind me of my Maker and Redeemer, whose beloved I am. The experience of seeing what I can do with them for God and in service of the world brings me deep joy.
I enjoy the practice of praying and thinking about what has been entrusted to me and annually dedicating ten percent of our income to the church, in part as a reminder that God wants all of me, not a fraction of me. Joe and I have been deeply blessed by this practice. We love the freedom, experience of abundance, and knowledge that our offerings make a difference this practice brings. Tithing has helped us discern the difference between needs and wants. It’s a tangible way I am reminded All things come from you, O Lord, and of your own have we given you (1 Chronicles 29:14).
What could a practice look like in which I dedicate my physical self to God as part of my stewardship? What prayers and actions could help remind me that my body too is given in trust, to be used for God’s purposes, which includes to give me joy? To protect me from the trap of seeking some earthly idea of physical perfection, but to accept and even celebrate the changes that happen over time? Because it’s God who has blessed me with strong shoulders and graying hair, a heart that beats strongly and a spine that can’t handle sitting for long periods of time. It’s God who entrusted to me a face that smiles easily and bears the saggy eyelids that make me resemble my relatives whom I love. It’s God who is letting me use this body to hike up hills, run, embrace my husband, hug my friends, kneel for confession, place the host–Christ’s body–into the outstretched hands of children and grown-ups, and sink into long, delicious naps when I’m exhausted.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. (Psalm 139: 13-14)
But none of it belongs to me. I’m just taking care of it.
You too. What is, or could be part of your practice?