I was in a hurry to get my 3-year-old daughter home before the backseat whining turned into a full backseat tantrum when I decided to cut through an alley and sneak my way into traffic. In doing so, I noticed a small sign on the back of a building for a Gnostic Association and was taken aback by this unexpected discovery.
I have lived in Richmond for the better part of a decade but never once wondered if, much less where, a group of Gnostics might gather for conversation and study. I spent the rest of my drive wondering who the group is, what they affirm and believe, how they might be linked to the Gnostics that challenged the early church in its belief that our inner selves and physical bodies matter in eternal, divine ways.
When I am honest, however, I ignored the sacred connections between spiritual and physical experience until about 16 months ago when I joined the YMCA to lose 30 pounds and test just how much my body could accomplish by my 35th birthday (I have less than four months to go!). I was a thinker and writer, a mother and maker of home, a neighbor and minister. But my body was a very separate thing and rarely treated like anything more than a vehicle in which I moved around. If I cared about my body, it was only in thoughts I had about food ethics and justice. For most of my adult life, my inner self and outer self were not reconciled, and I did not care for my body as though it mattered much either to me or to God.
Slowly, my time of moving my body and feeding it well is expanding my awareness of God’s creation intentions for humankind, and the Y is often my teacher. The Y’s stated purpose is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. The more I reflect on the comprehensive simplicity of that mission statement, the more I spend time at the Y with all of its regular members, and the more I live into my healthy habits and ways of being, the more convinced I am that the Y may often be better living out what it means to be Christian than many of our churches.
How many of us in daily parish life could succinctly say that we desire to build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all? Are those even truths that we value? Are we working for the flourishing of all people? My commitment to being active and eating responsibly in mindful, intentional ways has impacted every part of my life, and I hear the words of Jesus more crisply as John quotes him saying, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”
In the months to come on this new ABP Blog, I will explore different angles of health and wellness that contribute in some way to abundant life for all. Along the way, I want to hear from you. Where do you flourish? Are you actively seeking to reconcile your inner and outer selves? What feeds your body and spirit?