Doing Jumping Jacks

by Elton H. LaBree

Somewhere along the way the mental aspect of spiritual life overtook the other elements.  I think it is time for a corrective. Jesus said in Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  Of those four elements it seems our physical bodies and their strength have been given less attention as a part of our lives of worship.

I was reminded recently how much our bodies help us learn.  We had a Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament Live Event at our church.  It was a great event. We got to enact, with our bodies, different pieces of the Old Testament as the presenter went along.  We had Sampson with a bodybuilding pose, we had David with a full heart for God, we showed a united and divided kingdom of the Jewish people; it was good teaching and interactive learning using our physical bodies.  I bet if you go ask the folks at our church what they remember from these sessions they will remember a lot. Ask them what I spoke about on Sunday, they’ll probably remember little. Why? Because we got to use more of our senses, we got to use our bodies in the Live Event.  

If we can tap more of our five senses and use some different approaches to teaching more can be retained.  Yet, when it comes to teaching, particularly in the Church, it seems we are pretty much “speak and listen” type teachers.  At least I am, way to much. I ran across one item on the internet which said that 25% of learners in a K-12 classroom are auditory learners, 30% are visual, 15% are kinesthetic (body enacted) and 30% are a mixture of styles.  If that is true, it would mean that often only ¼ of a congregation is connecting well with a sermon!

However, we can get our bodies and other senses involved in our spiritual growth.  It would make sense Biblically as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that our bodies are to be living sacrifices of worship.  Likewise, also in 1st Corinthians 6:19 we find, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own, you were bought with a price.  Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (emphasis mine).  In fact, it was the gnostic heresy and not the Christians that tried to say our bodies were bad.  

Think of how the body is used in both Communion and Baptism.  It is not a mental exercise. In Communion, one takes the bread and the cup and eats and drinks.  In baptism, one’s body is immersed in water as a physical, symbolic action of the spiritual and mental action that has already taken place.  One is immersed into the water symbolizing one’s death to sin and arising in new life in Christ (Romans 6:4).

We see physical action in church or evangelistic services.  One is often asked to raise a hand or walk down an aisle to declare a desire to follow Jesus Christ.  While one reason is for follow-up conversation with the person, it also is a physical action that is taken.  One is physically saying, “I choose Jesus.”

So, on a day to day basis how can we involve the body more in your spiritual practices?

Here are three ideas:

Mix it up: Go ahead and raise your hands as you pray at home or at church.  Maybe only shoulder height, if you feel sensitive or embarrassed, but try it.  Pray on your knees or even get down flat on the floor. Different bodily positions in prayer can be of assistance to our prayer lives.  Depending on your faith tradition, why not raise a hand in worship? Again you might start low if you feel funny about it. I remember the first time, I raised a hand during the worship and praise time at a service in college.  I got hooked on it, ever since!

Fast: I can’t even believe I wrote that.  I really don’t like to fast. However, it is such a powerful spiritual discipline that we do well to practice it (for me, it’s on pretty rare occasions).  One needs to be careful with blood sugar concerns and so forth, but even skipping lunch and perhaps just eating an afternoon nutrition bar, frees up time as well as brings your body into a spiritual practice as you seek God.  

Experiment and own it yourself: If you know you learn best visually, get a pen out and draw diagrams in your journal or in the notes section of the church bulletin.  Visit with your pastor about having an occasional picture on the screen that relates to the sermon if you feel it would help you learn better.  If you do better praying while walking than praying at your kitchen table, than go on a prayer walk.

None of us are wired the same way.  However, all of us are called to give our complete selves to the Lord.  Our minds, our hearts, our souls and yes, our bodies as well.