My children made sled runs last week. They hauled piles of snow onto the edge of the deck and packed everything down–that initial drop is important–then they start to sled. At first they only make it a few feet. The incline of our yard is gentle (to the relief of their mom) and their sleds spool sideways while the kids giggle. This first part takes many restarts.
But as they keep mounting, keep compressing the snow harder and sledding a bit further, a change happens. The puffy wasteland is transformed into two grooves, one running off the north steps and one running off the south, that streak further and further into the yard. The sledders pitch their shoulders and hips, nudge the sleds to keep following the path, and finally the sled run is formed. They fly down the path shrieking in triumph. Their bodies have carved a way.
It’s bodies that I’m thinking of as the semester begins. This may surprise you, as it does me, since seminary is often such a cranial experience. Preaching outlines, history notes, verb charts–these are not things that we absorb with our skin or work with our muscles but with our minds. And that is okay. To spend an afternoon in study, brow furrowed and brain pulsing, is a good and pleasing way to love God with all our minds.
But as you pound down those readings and dissect that lecture, permit a reminder as we begin this semester together. You are a soul embodied. There is no separating mind and matter because you are, by nature, a fusion of the two. Souls breathed into dust, divinity into bodies.
So right away, one simple application: don’t treat yourself like the computer that you are not. You’ll glaze over if I start talking about drinking water, or getting sleep, or taking walks. But the Word took a body and dwelt among us, and we should not think ourselves greater than he. He drank. He walked. He took a nap. Valuing self-care, I told someone recently, is part of accepting our humanity. So sometimes imitating Christ comes in the deep waters of fighting sin and evil. But at others it is the simple invitation to release every care, release even consciousness, and fall asleep. Remember this.
And those verb charts? That chapter that’s hard to untangle? Your body has a secret for them too. As you read and puzzle over it, it will lay the information down–tiny piece by tiny piece–and go over it, smooth it, pack it into place. It will take what at first feels unintelligible and forge a path til the information flies over it like lightning. Your body will make a way.
This is its secret: your mind is not a computer, it’s an alchemist. The very moment that you’re fretting over that first quiz, your body is quietly restructuring matter to store lessons about divinity in the space between your eyeballs and your hair bun. You’ve given it the lead of letters on a page and it’s managed to turn them into neurological gold.
When the wonder of that smacks you this semester–when right in the mundane of your studies you realize that he placed a supernova made of neurons right into your head–do this. Lift your physical hands and your physical voice to the God of all creation in praise. You live in a body charged with divinity, and there is little left to do but worship.
Distance Learning Student.