Embracing The Body {review and giveaway}

Embracing The Body {review and giveaway}

Embracing the Body
Embracing the Body

Ever since I first heard about Embracing The Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone, by my friend Tara Owens, I have been eager to read it. The last few years have been a journey of reclaiming my body as good and made by God. This book felt like the perfect way to continue that discovery and conversation with God and myself.

Tara is a spiritual director, and she brings the beauty of that tradition with her to this book. She invites me to sit with my body, the parts and sensations that make me uncomfortable, and the ones that bring me joy. At the end of each chapter she gives exercises, ways to connect my body with the book I’m reading, feeling it in my fingers and toes. Frankly, I usually skip questions for reflection or exercises at the end of book chapters, but these were different. Tara asked me to go on a walk, to smash a piece of pottery, to hold hands with someone for a time. The exercises are a gift, and many of them have stayed with me.

I love the way Tara talks about our particularity. Recently, I had an epiphany that was big for me. I realized that I experience the world very specifically through my body. I am 5’2”, and only understand what it is to be that height or one achieved by different shoes. I know only my level of vision, my sense of smell, the ways that my brain processes data based on everything I’ve ever experienced. My life in the world is completely tied up in my specific body.

It is into the consciousness of our particular bodies, and the unpredictability of all bodies that I am beckoned in this book. Even though I’ve been trying to pay attention, beginning to practice yoga, to feed myself when I’m hungry and put myself to bed when I’m tired, I still found myself resistant to many of the ways Tara asked me to listen. I don’t have to dig deep to realize that my very resistance is a clue about the places that still need to be healed.

This work flies in the face of the idea that we can separate from our bodies, living in our minds and eventually floating away into eternity where we will never experience another creaky knee. We are here, present in these places. They are how we experience the world. They are how we experience God. They are intentional.

It is a rare (and perhaps non-existent) person who has no healing work to be done regarding their body. Unfortunately, the church has often contributed to the baggage in this area, rather than the healing. It is my hope that this book, filled with Biblical examples, words in the original languages, and examples from church mothers and fathers (and Tara’s life and work with spiritual direction) may aid churches and individuals in beginning to be supportive and holistic about these fleshy places we live inside. Or, you know, us.

It is hard to put into words the gifts that this book brings. I can see in it such potential for change, healing and growth. I can see the blessing, ready to be unleashed. It’s a book about connection, between us, others, and God. It’s a book about accepting the truth of how we were made, and how we function. It’s a book that will likely make you uncomfortable.

As I walked with this book, I awoke very early in the morning, experiencing intense cramps. This is unusual for me, though it has been known to happen. As I waited for the pain killers to take effect, unable to find a comfortable position in my bed, I began to think about the pain, and what it was saying to me. I seldom think about menstruation, allowing it to pass, wishing it on its way quickly. I’ve certainly never written about it before. But in that moment, at 4am, I allowed myself to listen to the ways that my body was mourning. I acknowledged the fact that I had been physically prepared to nurture new life, and that my uterus was rending itself, my pain a reminder of a hope that never came to fruition.

Tara has invited me to think this way, to change the way I interact with my body. It is not just about giving grace, or seeking balance, or getting sleep (though I feel encouraged to do those things), it’s about listening. It’s about paying attention to what I’m trying to say to myself, and repairing the communication lines that have been inactive for too long.

Intervarsity Press has generously given me five copies to give away to you, my lovely readers. They are happy to ship to both US and Canadian addresses. You can enter the contest below.

Whether you win a copy, or buy one, I hope that you will spend some time with this book. May it begin to work in you as it has done in me.

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