Your body is a rocket ship for your mission, or a millstone around your neck.
You get to choose which one applies to you.
Like other Christian men, I’ve lived in a tenuous relationship with my body. I’ve let it get out of shape, wrestled with shame about my sexuality, abused it with alcohol, loved my muscular build and hated my short legs and unsymmetrical eyes.
What no one taught me: How to relate to my body for a positive outcome to my mission as a Christian man. I had to muddle my way through to cracking the code to using my body as a faithful mount rather than a millstone.
Let’s get some guidance from the Word, and I’ll share the key things I’ve learned along the way.
God Made Adam With A Good Body
God creates the prototypical Adam with two halves:
…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2.7 ESV
God turned his potter’s wheel and formed our bodies out of earth. This is the physical body. Then he animated that body with His breath (Hebrew: neshamah), an analog term to spirit. The result is a “living soul”
With no parents to produce the first man, God made Adam of a dynamic unity of the feminine earth raised up to meet a descending masculine spirit in the form of God breathing into Adam’s nostrils. And He proclaims this living man “good”
To reclaim our bodies, we need to acquire the wisdom that our bodies are good things. In the west, we have unfortunately and often unknowingly syncretized Greek philosophy with a Hebrew worldview.
Overcoming The Greek Problem
The Greek philosophers made several key mistakes, one of which was a low view of physical matter. (The other is that they replace the spiritual part with reason and thinking, but that will be for another day. )
So, they became obsessed with perfect thinking, perfect forms, and this drove them into their heads and out of this world, disparaging physical forms and limiting the Spirit in the quest for perfect reason.
Eventually, Christians would read things like “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” and superimpose the Greek idea of physical = bad onto it. From then on, we’ve continued the ruse that spirit = good, flesh = bad. But this is not what Paul, a Jew, meant.
What is the true Biblical view of the body? What is a body for? God declares His creation, “very good.” In the Biblical view, the physical supports and expresses the spiritual, while the spiritual gives life, direction, and unity of purpose to the physical.
The physical body and the spirit need and serve each other, instead of opposing one another as in the greek model. The body wants to be inhabited by and controlled by the spiritual, and the spiritual wants the body so that it can express itself in the physical.
This is why demons seek the possession of a physical body. This is why God’s Spirit indwells the body of the believer. The spirit and the body live in a mutually beneficial, reciprocal relationship. What goes on in the body affects the spirit, and vice versa:
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 ESV
Now that we’ve established that the body is good and a support and expression of the spiritual, we can reintegrate our walk with God into the bodily practice of expressing our power (“let them rule”) for God in the world.
7 Actionable Places To Begin Stewarding Your Body
For too long, wacky yogis and other weird cults have owned the practice of breath. But it is the Creator who gave breath to man, and he ought to steward his own breath.
Breathing is one of the few (if not only) process that can be both “autonomic” (that is controlled non-consciously) and conscious. We can deepen or shallow our breathing, slow it or speed it up.
One of the first breath basics I teach men is that a short fast breath in followed by a long breath out will calm and relax your system, while a long breath in and quick breath out will get you ready for action. By stewarding your own breath, you can alter your own state from relaxed to amped.
You can steward your breath to match the needs of the moment. I encourage you to start experimenting with the two states I’ve mentioned.
Eating is an inherently spiritual activity. You are pulling up from the earth and assimilating matter into yourself in order to meet and support the spiritual.
A blueberry bush pulls nutrients from the soil and sunlight from the heavens to produce a blueberry, rich and dense in nutrients.
Interestingly, the chain can be longer and more developed. Cows assimilate grass (which took soil and sunlight) and turn it into milk and meat, and we assimilate meat and turn into human body. Higher forms of animals, like meat, milk, eggs, thus contain more nutrients.
As you might guess, on the opposite end of the spectrum is industrially and scientifically created food. Both Twinkies and Doritos are created in a laboratory, engineered for addictive taste.
They are drugs.
There are corresponding evil higher forms in industrialized foods. One can take a completely unnaturally refined oil like seed oil, and use it with other industrially refined ingredients. Your average donut is made of overly refined flour, cheap sugar, and then soaked in seed oil. It’s a nightmare and possibly the worst thing you could eat.
My top three pieces of advice for optimal bodily function via food:
- Stop eating seed oils (soy, vegetable, sunflower, cotton, etc)
- Stop eating refined sugars
- Start eating animal-based foods and fruits.
In the west, it is possible to live and survive while hardly moving at all, a unique achievement with the respect to the number of people who can do this.
The elimination of movement has become a goal rather than a higher purpose.We’ve eliminated so much movement, we’ve had to create new movement, called “exercise” to replace it.
Like the body, we must ask, “what is movement for?” If we can connect our bodies to our higher spiritual purpose, they are not mere containers for our spirits or, worse, our brains. They exist to “flesh out” our mission and purpose to rule, be fruitful, multiply, subdue, and fill.
There is a certain quality of relationship we should maintain with creation. We are supposed to walk it, survey it, manipulate it for good.
Here’ my top actionable advice for cultivating movement:
- Walk as much as you can. Use it productively. Combining walking and thinking is productive. If your chief work is not movement related, be sure to build in movement hobbies, preferably ones that get you out in creation
- Use exercise as a “supplement” or “training” to keep you ready for your larger mission. Keep it simple so that you keep it up. My preferred methods are more walking, kettlebells, bodyweight exercise, and a martial art.
- Learn to be dangerous with your body. As I previously wrote, God calls us to protect those things we have fathered.
Master the Sexual Urge
God created men with a powerful sexual urge. The drive to penetrate and plant (I wrote about this last week) and “father” is a powerful force that pulsates viscerally within a man’s body, creating tension, energy, and vitality.
I repeat, this is a good thing.
What is not good is “spilling” this drive on pornography, entertaining lustful fantasy, or worse, adultery. Ask most men what this drive feels like, and they will say “tension. "
Men must cultivate the skill of living with tension. The immature man seeks to release and dispel tension. The mature man not only learns to live with it, he can play with tension, harness it and redirect it.
Most men also must learn to heal from Plato’s virus. The body, the sexual drive, the desire to penetrate and plant is a good, not bad thing.
If you are a child of the 80s or 90s, you might be familiar with the purity culture phenomenon: As a counter-swing the sexual revolution, it had the unintended consequence of demonizing sexual desire, attraction, and associated bodily responses. (By the way, it also demonized women for “causing” such responses, and wrongly made women responsible for the tripping of men’s desire)
All of this generated a great deal of shame among men that persists to this day. The church attempted to teach men to control the sexual drive by shaming it rather than teaching men they had the power and responsibility to harness it and express it monogamously.
Live Well With Emotions
Emotions are bodily feelings entangled with our thought processes. Fear, shame, anger, excitement and others directly result from thoughts we are having about our current experience.
We can drive a wedge between our emotions and what we do about them.
Our given instinct is to resist emotion, especially unpleasant ones. That is bad counsel. When we resist emotion, they stick around rather than dissipate. It is better to fully feel the emotion we are having, examine the stories feeding that emotion, and change our thinking stories to produce better emotions.
One of the great lessons in my transformation was acquiring both the knowledge and the skill to generate the emotions I wanted and move on quickly from the ones that I didn’t want.
The Brain - Heart - Gut Axis
Scientists who study the human body have made the last couple decades extremely interesting. We have learned some incredible information about the way the brain works. We sometimes think that because the brain “thinks” it is above the body, but in fact it is a part of the body.
Not only that, but the brain is only a part of the story with thoughts. The gut is often cited as the 'second brain;' its health has large effects on our thoughts and brain.
Now we also know that the heart has its own brain that communicates with our head brain.
To make your body (of which your brain/heart/gut is part) a rocket ship for your mission, see to their health.
Feed them with nourishing foods, exercise (I heard just today that the activation of muscles releases an anti-depressant molecule in the body!) and supplements where appropriate.
Reach out to me for specific recommendations.
I encourage you to harness the body-spirit connection. Think of your spirit like the rider, your body the horse. Horse-masters are intuitively locked into their horses’ movements, moods, weaknesses and strengths, and can work together as a dynamic unity to achieve the mission.
What’s your first step in this journey? How has your lack of stewardship of your body holding you back? What are you going to do about it?
How can I help you achieve this?