A little while ago I posted a piece about “the end of sex” as we know it, referencing an article about the dramatically diminishing sex lives of Japanese young people, as the joy of human contact is displaced by virtual realities, work demands, and the discovery that commitment free recreational sex is a mirage, as even popular movies tell us here.
Stepping back from the particulars of sexuality, its easy to see the trend line pointing all of us towards lives that are increasingly removed from physical realities. Food comes from boxes. Comfort comes from climate controlled indoor boxes called buildings. Entertainment comes from boxes. Sexual release comes from boxes. It’s possible to live such a ridiculously insulated existence that we need never leave home again.
“That’s ridiculous!” I can hear you saying it. But when was the last time you ate food straight from a garden? Walked barefoot? Spent time outside in the rain? Slept under the stars? When was the last time you were hungry, or cold, or thirsty? When was the last time you hugged you spouse or parent or child, not in a formal way, but in a lingering way, indicating of your deep affection for the other? When was the last time you looked into your lover’s eyes deeply enough to see their soul, and allow yours to be seen too?
When David encourages us to “taste and see” that the Lord is good, he’s inviting us to allow revelation of God’s character to come to us through our senses, to allow ourselves to be shaped not only by revelation from the scriptures, but from taste, touch, smell, beauty, pleasure, pain. IN world that’s increasingly becoming virtual, urban, and disembodied, Christ followers have a chance to display an alternative: life lived fully, unmediated through pixels.
This, though, will be challenging because since the beginning, Christ followers have struggled with integration. The gospel and letters of John, along with Colossians, address our tendency to split the universe into spirit and matter, a view that comes from Plato, not Jesus. We’ve gone there though, for reasons beyond the scope of this little piece. The results have not been pretty, as sexual phobias drive desire underground, misreadings about “love not the world” lead to neglect of the environment, and “set your mind on heavenly things” has come only to mean “read your Bible more”. It’s time to come home to the good news that God has made us to be whole people. It’s time to come home to our bodies. Here are some ways:
1. View body care as a faith issue – Phrases about the spirit “giving life to our mortal bodies” and our bodies being “temples” ought to shake us out of our gnostic slumber long enough to help us see that exercising, eating real food, getting enough sleep, and maybe taking our shoes off once in a while aren’t evidence of self indulgent narcissism, but rather stewardship. There are lots of places to go if you need motivation or inspiration. I go here.
2. Embrace our identities as sexual beings – This is where we’re afraid to go, afraid even to talk about it because we think that any body positive, or sex positive messaging will lead to promiscuity and addiction. That’s like saying that we shouldn’t take about food for fear of obesity or anorexia. In fact, it’s the phobic taboo nature of the topic that leads countless men and women to struggle with their sexuality alone, underground. Thus this fundamental part of their identity, this gift from God is only spoken of in hushed tones, when it ought to be an integral part of our lives and teaching. I’m presently collecting resources to share in this area and will devote an entire post to a list soon.
3. Unplug. – You’ve got to turn it off. Phone. Pad. Computer. Music. You’ve got to listen to the silence, or to the nuances in the voice and body language of the one to whom you’re speaking. You’ve got to pay attention, tasting the food you’re eating, the smell of coffee just before it touches your lips, the new trees growing out of an old stump, the sensation of cold when you walk barefoot in November. This kind of “tasting and seeing” is ultimately a tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, or can be, if we’ll but start with the realization that God is speaking – all the time, through all God’s made. Reduce your focus to a screen, though, and you’ll miss it.
5. Get outside. Garden. Hike. Gaze at the Milky Way. Go for a run. Climb a mountain. Walk to work. Do whatever it takes so that you can come to see and believe that you’re part of something much bigger, that God’s providing for you through the water cycle, seasons, and the interconnectedness of all life.
6. Read your Bible. I just wrote about Coffee with God, and the necessity of meeting Christ in the Bible. Why? This is your map, offering interpretation for all the beauty and pain, and desire and fulfillment, loss and hunger, feasting and celebration, intimacy and distancing that you’ll experience when you live an embodied life. This is vital because in the end these very bodies we’re living in will decay. But if we let them, they’ll inform, sanctify, and fortify all that we are, not just in time but in eternity.
You think our world is thirsty for this? I do, as seen here: