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When Body and Spirit Go in Opposite Directions

 August 5, 2022

We are bodily spirits. I’ve often read of the need for the body and spirit to align. We are told we need to listen to our bodies as well as our spirit. But what do you do when your body and spirit go in opposite directions?

The Spirit is Willing …

I don’t want to go gently into retirement, spending my days sitting on my swing drinking mint juleps (though it would be nice to do that at times). Nor do I want to let the world pass me by or be useless. I want to play with my grandchildren, write fiction and nonfiction until my fingers cramp, then get up and write again. Use me, Lord. Use my gifts, my spirit, my body until I am spent.

I want to protest the world’s wrongs, the grey-haired lady joining the ranks of the young and more able. But then I think, driving to the place, dealing with parking and crowds, standing in the hot sun for hours or in the cold during the winter. Do I really want to do that? My spirit is willing, my body weak. Body and spirit are going in opposite directions.

Bodily Spirits

“There are not two halves of you: soul versus body. You are one whole, made in the image of a God who is integrated and indivisible. Your relationship to your body cannot be separated from the health of your soul, for the two are intertwined to make up all that it means to be you. Your flesh and bones are sacred; they connect you to your soul’s experience of the divine.” Shannon K. Evans says in her book,  Luminous: A 30-Day Journal for Accepting Your Body, Honoring Your Soul, and Finding Your Joy.

And yet, what then about what Paul says about the flesh and the spirit? “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. Creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. … For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:18-23) Our spirits wait to be free of this flesh.

Both/And – Bodily Spirits and Body and Spirit

Is it possible that both can be true? We are one whole, bodily spirit, and yet, at times it seems our body and spirit go in opposite directions. When God chose to come into our world, he took on human flesh, thereby sanctifying the body. Yet there is that within us, our spirit, that is the heavenly breath of God. God speaks to us through that spirit, but also through our bodies. We need to listen to our bodies to help discern God’s will for us. Sometimes our spirit desires something that we are not physically capable of. That is God’s way of letting us know that perhaps that is not what God asks of us.

But as we age, there is that within us that grows even as our bodies begin to fail. For me, that is what Paul is talking about in Romans 8. And so, we aren’t to despair even as our bodies grow fragile and fail, for our spirits may be soaring to new heights as we prepare for our heavenly home.

Sometimes our body and spirit are aligned, other times our body and spirit go in opposite directions. All comes from our God. What invitation might God be extending to you through your body and spirit?


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