It’s been about a year since we first made the discovery. It was almost unavoidable. Multiple nights a week I would lock myself in the bedroom. No light. No sound. No movement. No thoughts even remotely close to any of the things that were the source of so much pain. I was plagued by these debilitating migraines. I knew the symptoms all too well, but had very little insight into the cause. I guess I just thought, People get migraines, no big deal. At some point it was a big deal. Because it was consuming my life. That year was a tough one. I was newly married, working an incredibly emotionally demanding job, and grieving the divorce of my parents. I was pretty much in a constant state of meltdown, breakdown, or blow up. Which left me beyond exhausted. So what did we discover? Oh yeah. Food Allergies: The cause of my migraines. (Doesn’t sound as heinous as you were thinking, right?) While I was trying to dodge these migraines with gallons of water and fistfuls of ibuprofen, my husband had a better idea. A more orderly, systematic approach to things. He took note of what we were eating and finally one day it smacked us in the face. I was allergic something I ate almost every day. It still amazes me that what you put in your body can affect you so profoundly. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all connected. I never had a problem with these foods before. It seemed really sudden and unexplainable. In light of everything I was facing, I wondered how much stress could play a role in this. How much could my mind and emotions really affect my body? As the story goes, I couldn’t continue to live that way. It was terrible. I was truly suffering. I found a counselor I trust and a doctor that uses a natural approach. A year later, I can say that I have found so much relief! And I’ve learned some things along the way. It’s clear to me, now more than ever, that we are whole. I’ve always connected with that in theory. But it is a completely different thing to experience it. It is truly a mystery. I can hardly begin to conceptualize or put into words how it works. Here’s what I know: My emotions impact my body. (And visa versa) My spirit speaks to my emotions, soothes them, strengthens them, which in turn calms my body as well. I’ve seen it time and time again! So here’s my question… We are all human. We all have bodies, minds, souls. So, why is this concept so foreign to us? Why is it that when I try to write about this experience…it’s like there’s no language for it? We totally don’t think like this. We don’t engage life from this perspective. I feel like we are fairly blind to the connections that naturally exist within us. And I’m wondering, why don’t we talk about this more? Why don’t we engage it? Why is the Church fairly silent on this issue? I’m not sure why. I know that we tend to focus on the opposing forces of the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17). You know, we are told that we are in a war and that our flesh cannot be trusted. We must overcome it. We talk a lot about Romans 8, putting off the flesh and putting on the Spirit. We talk about Paul and why do I do the thing which I don’t want to do? These things get a lot of attention. And I’m not saying they’re not important, I just don’t think that they cover the whole story. I think that the Church is grappling with this right now. I’d say that most of us don’t accept that we as humans are merely flesh warring against spirit. Rather we are whole beings and there is this unity between body, mind, soul and it reflects the unity of God: Father, Son, Spirit. But I think that our understanding of this is stunted and we still struggle to understand the complexity of who we are and how we are made. And what it means for us to live as whole beings. What if instead of first fighting our flesh, we learn to listen to our bodies? What does it mean to be a new creation? How does that shift the relationship we have with our body and the way we think? How do we strengthen the connections between our body, mind, soul, and spirit? What is the value of that? How does God desire and intend for us to live? I think that many in the Church are asking these questions and more. Take this article in Relevant Magazine. Give it a read if you (or a friend, wink) question the morality of yoga. Another article in Christianity Today had some interesting commentary on this.
Why are we so attracted to yoga, acupuncture, and the like? As people of faith, we recognize that we are multidimensional beings. We know that we are more than just a body, but exist as bodies, minds, and spirits, and all parts of us need attention. It raises the question: Why haven’t similar practices come out of Christianity? [But instead]…we live compartmentalized lives. We go to the doctor to treat our bodies. We go to church to treat our souls. We might go to the psychiatrist to treat our minds. All the while, by neglecting the connections between our bodies, minds, and souls, we walk around feeling less-than-whole in our search for healing. Conventional Western medicine fails miserably at considering this holistic view.
[And unfortunately at times…so does the church.]
Western medicine treats the body without attending to the soul. On the other, the faith community prioritizes the soul while often neglecting the body. We tend to work out our faith largely in our minds, disconnected from what our bodies feel.
N.T. Wright discusses this in his paper on Mind, Spirit, Soul, and Body. [Warning: it is a challenging read, but there are some pretty great morsels in there (along with mind-bending arguments against the dualism that pervades our society in many forms).] He points us to 1 Thessalonians 5:13:
[The] language [in this verse] is, in any case, wholistic: may the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit, soul, and body be preserved whole and entire until the royal appearing of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. If Paul had wanted to say that he saw these three aspects of humanity as separable, or, particularly, as to be ranked in importance over one another, he’s gone about it in a very strange way. It seems to me, then, taken all together, that when Paul thinks of human beings he sees every angle of vision as contributing to the whole, and the whole from every angle of vision. All lead to one, the one is seen in the all. And, most importantly, each and every aspect of the human being is addressed by God, is claimed by God, is loved by God, and can respond to God.
How then shall we live? What does it mean to experience God in these ways? What does it look like for each and every aspect of our beings to be addressed by God, claimed by God, loved by God, and to respond to God?
Dear Body, Mind, Spirit, Soul:
You are addressed by God.
You are claimed by God.
You are loved by God.
You may respond to God.
Live as such.