Warning: I use Christian scripture. I will reframe it; I promise, and I think it’ll be good. But if the Bible is hurtful for you, go ahead and pass on this post.
Carnal: adj. of or relating to the bodyWebsters Dictionary
That of God is in everyoneGeorge Fox, founder of Quakerism
Now you are the body of Christ [anointed one], and each of you is part of it.I Corinthians 12:27
God, the Divine, is carnal.
I’m in therapy. Again.
Therapy is like dating, except it costs more money.
You get to know each other, see if you’re a fit, then fork up $120 to pay someone to listen to you like a decent human.
I obviously love it.
In one of my therapist roulettes, I ended up with someone who would start every session with breathing, having me pay attention to my body, bringing me to the here and now, not tomorrow or elsewhere, the present. And in this space, she’d ask me what my body was doing, what sensations, what messages was it telling me, how was it reacting to my choices and the world around me.
Then she asked a question I fucking hated.
“How do you love yourself?”
“I hate this question. I think it’s so dumb and selfish, and people use it as an excuse to be an ass and spend money they don’t have. ‘I’m gonna do a treat myself day and hide from everyone while I get a pedicure.’ ‘I told this person to fuck off because I gotta show up for me because who else is?’” All said in a mocking, childish tone. “It just seems rooted in selfishness and doesn’t actually help. Like, when I’ve had a hard day, sure, I’ll take myself to a bakery and get a nice sticky bun and coffee. It makes me feel better. But I can’t do that all the time. That’s dumb. I’d be broke. And fat. I just don’t get it or like it.”
“Why does loving yourself have to equal spoiling yourself? Why can’t it be showing up for yourself like the perfect parent?”
Well fuck you too, Tiffany!
I was shook. A perfect parent? That’s what loving yourself looks like? Not the whole “treat yo’ self situation”?
My mind began to shift.
Okay, if loving yourself is like being a perfect parent, a perfect parent wouldn’t necessarily let their kid have sweets for every meal. It’s not good for them. And if loving myself means being a perfect parent, a perfect parent wouldn’t just let a kid hoard toys to themself while their siblings don’t get to play anything. It ruins relationships and teaches a kid his world is so small.
In the Christian tradition, we always talk about how the church is the body of Christ and how God is our perfect parent. Which is interesting because it doesn’t actually say the church entity (a.k.a. a building and business) is the body of Christ. It says the people are.
“When two or more are gathered,” God shows up. Maybe God shows up when we bather because we get to see the Divine in others through the cracks as they draw close, as we huddle together in the night of life like one of those cheesy easter services. It’s not because they’re something magical about gathering. It’s because God is in us, and we forget till we see that holy flame in another human. Not a service or program. But in the human next to us that dares to let that perfect parent out.
“When you give water to the least of these, I was there. When you visit me in prison, I was there.”
What about when we pay attention to the deep yearnings in our soul and choose to quench them with something life-giving and refreshing? What about when we remind ourselves of deep truths that proclaim freedom while we’re trapped in panic and despair?
What if we can be the hands and feet of God for ourselves? What if the Divine parent is right here, in your bones, waiting and willing to help you show up for yourself? To be the manifestation of God for yourself?
For those of you who haven’t been reading a ton of my other stuff, you’re unaware that I write about sex quite a bit. It’s because I have sex quite a bit. And I have quite a bit of thoughts and feelings about sex.
One thought I have is that when I yearn to escape my body via a hook up, it often feels like a tunnel.
Nothing else exists. Everything blacks out. The current/traffic/force pulls me through, speeding me up. I must go forward. I must see this through. Till I reach the other side. Where the world I’ve hidden from is waiting. And I only escaped but for a moment.
I also write a lot about shame regarding sex. (Might be my prudish, homophobic 16-year-old self haunting me from the past or the thousands of vows I made in the throws of purity culture, but what do I know.) And in the wake of shame, I would delete whatever app I used to get a hookup (cough Grindr), and I’d try to move on as if nothing happened, as if I were waking up from a bad-but-pleasurable dream.
But when I moved to Korea, I wanted to start fresh. I wanted to make new habits. And I wanted to be kind to myself, like a good parent.
So rather than being a strict slave master, not allowing myself to have any sex, I told myself I’d only have sex if I made a meaningful connection first to help train my body to connect sex with intimacy.
I was relating to myself as a kind and caring and patient parent, and through it, I’ve been able to show compassion to myself that spills over to others. Not out of shame, but out of hope for the future, transforming my world choice by choice, in hopes of a heaven now, through the work of God in my bones today.
Often, especially in the Old Testament, God is this thing outside, and we’re called to wait for God’s salvation, called to pray for it and expect it. We see this in organizations like IHOP and when Christians obsess over the “end times.”
God is always out there while we yearn for God to come.
But a tradition I want to take from my problematic Christian background is that maybe salvation already has come, and maybe it’s deep within our bones. Maybe it never leaves us of forsakes us because God is inside us, carnal, locked up in flesh and bones, forsaking heaven to make heaven in us…
Through every act…
Through every imaginative thought…
Maybe that’s what it means to bring the “kingdom of heaven to earth,” maybe that’s what it means when God declared “They are with us.” That spark of Divinity of the perfect parent, ready and willing to show us the way forward, ready and willing to remind us we are Their home.
If you liked this post, you’re gonna love my book. It follows the story of my faith crumbling, then uses anecdotes to display the pieces of my past I want to carry with me into a new future.
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Much love! Thank you for reading!
Image by Jackson David