The Red Couch: Embracing The Body Discussion

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To learn more about “Embracing the Body,” please read the introductory post. Be sure to peruse The Nightstand in that post, which has resources for those wanting to learn more about the topic and themes of this month’s selection. We also enjoyed a wonderful discussion with Tara Owens in our Facebook group two weeks ago.

One of the things I love about the Red Couch book club is that the book I end up writing about and discussing almost ALWAYS speaks to a deep-seated need or circumstance in my present moment. The book becomes a type of manual that God uses to clear out the junk in the storage shed of my soul.

This is exactly what happened when I read Embracing The Body: Finding God In Our Flesh & Bone by Tara Owens.

I was a child of the church that told me there was more bad than good about my flesh. The image of my body being God’s temple was emphasized less than not letting my body succumb to temptation.

Like countless other women (and perhaps even you), from a very early age I struggled with a distorted body image taking root in my psyche that affected not only my personal confidence, but my identity as a child of God, and my relationship to the Kingdom body—God’s church.

From pockmarked acne scars etched deep within the flesh of my face, to a year of my life when I continuously hemorrhaged for 9 months—even my present weight struggles that have yielded countless health problems (and degrading head-to-toe-stare-downs), my body has felt more often than not like an enemy, or a cross to bear. Truth be told, my “temple” has seen much better days, and I confess that lately my physical body is the last vehicle I would consider using to draw closer to Jesus.

Tara explains the trap of my default mindset in the book’s introduction:

…We eschew the idea that this uncomfortable, sweaty, noisy, unruly body of ours might indeed be the vehicle for union with the God who loves us beyond anything we could imagine. That children and dance and sex and art and body image and beauty and prayer and touch just might be encoded with something more than fear and danger. That in them we might find the fullness of life in Christ that we’ve been longing for. (p.16)

There are so many aspects to communing with God in our flesh and bone I hadn’t previously considered.

Learning more about the physicality of finding God in our marrow and our blood reminded me of my roommate years ago in New York City, who first introduced me to full body meditation and prayers. I can still see her reaching her long, blonde limbs to the sky as she took God-filled inhales and exhaled Scripture with every kinetic motion.

Though I am a creature who luxuriates in and expresses myself through voice and movement (as a singer and actor) and defaults to physical touch in intimate relationships,  I so quickly forget to offer my breath as  prayer, and “my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” —Romans 12:1-2

Despite my flaws, my fears, my doubts and concerns about my own body, I was reminded through both the nudge of the Spirit and the roaring truth of Tara’s words that “… God is about the work of redemption … He is about binding up our broken pieces … all the way through our maligned and misappropriated bodies … 

God is “… reclaiming the very fortress of our selves, our blood and bones and skin and muscle, from the devastations of the fall and of our mishandled attempts at holiness.  God is about this work, and we are called to see it and to receive it. {p.61}

Some of my favorite takeaways from the book were the practical and experiential practices Tara gave us in the “touch point” exercises at the end of each chapter.

Activities such as prayer walks, journaling, full body meditation practice, even smashing pieces of pottery are suggested as viable ways to “wrestle through the content of the chapter in your own life, and … your own body.” {p.17}

The last exercise of “giving blessing” continues to bring me to my spiritual knees, as I “look for opportunities to bless the bodies” of those around me. {p. 239}

There have been times in my life when a simple touch of encouragement was enough to remind me that God exists and loves me. My husband’s love language is acts of service, which I can hardly accomplish without the power of God-given muscle and sinew.

The simple truth of reaching out to others, meeting their gaze head on and tuning our entire presence to their needs is such an important way to extend love and mercy to a brother or sister—a fellow broken and beloved child of God.

“Here we are brought low again,  here we are invited to receive the calling to be the humble, holy ones.

Receive what you are, the body of Christ.

We receive this blessing, that we may be a blessing.” {p.238}

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Questions to Consider:

  • What aspect of this book spoke to you most deeply and why?
  • How has your perception and view of your body–both personally and/or from your faith/church experience–affected your relationship with God?
  • Tara approaches the conversation of our sexuality in relation to God and our bodies with wisdom and grace.  A line from chapter 12, Flesh of My Flesh, poses an interesting question: “The most fundamentally true thing about our sexuality is that it is good.  Stop for a minute and read that sentence again…Do you really believe that?  What would change if you did?” (p.209)
  • How has your physical experience with suffering or loss brought you to a deeper and more intimate relationship with God?
  • Which of the “touch point” exercises at the end of each chapter was your favorite and why?

 

REMINDER:

Our July book is Silence by Shusaku Endo. Here are the other Third Quarter picks. Come back next Wednesday July 1 for the introduction to the book. We’re going to try something different for the discussion this month: join us in the Facebook group for the discussion on Wednesday July 22! You can also join the Red Couch Facebook group for on-going discussion throughout the month.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Sarah Caldwell
Sarah Caldwell is the Chief Creative Curator at All Manner of Inspiration, where she gathers everyday inspiration and encourages artists of all makes and models. A musical theatre performer and book lover, Sarah aspires to shed a bright light on the Creative Process that draws others to see their dreams more clearly. When she’s not auditioning, performing, or blogging, Sarah is seeking out ‘the perfect pen’, reading an ever-growing stack of books, and spending time with her friends and family. She’s currently chasing the next inspirational spark and her sweet pup Daphne in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas with her husband Frank.
Sarah Caldwell
Sarah Caldwell

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Sarah Caldwell
  • This book has so resonated with me… I’ve been linking it to everything. Last week, our church’s service was done in a midrash style and we looked at Deut. 6:4-9. I remembered Tara talking about how we’ve focused so much on Love the Lord with all your heart and soul, but have forgotten the strength piece. I’ve been noticing that more and more – how do I fully, physically love the Lord? How do I show it in my physical actions and routines?

    I’m so glad this book was chosen for the Red Couch! It’s one I had heard a lot about but for some reason didn’t think it was “for me.” After reading it, I realized it’s a book that will stay with me for a long time, showing up in many unexpected places.

    I wrote a small reflection about it over at my blog last week… https://annierim.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/embracing-physical-worship/

    • I love this Annie – I’m so glad it resonated with you! I agree–I was thrilled when I heard we were reading it together. Its a book I’ve read slowly, as I steeped my thoughts on it and really sat with the concepts and information. I agree – I feel like no one in my church talks about this aspect of loving and worshipping God, and I so, so wish they would – we NEED to! I agree that the practical, ‘physical actions and routines’ are so important. That’s why I loved Tara’s touch points. Going to your blog right now to read your reflection! Blessings to you!