This is my reflection on chapter 5 of “Sacred Rhythms” by Ruth Haley Barton that I wrote for my internship– a book that I recommend to EVERYONE!
Why does every chapter of this book surprise me? I should have learned from the 4 previous chapters that Ruth knows what she’s talking about and that I need what she’s talking about. This chapter is about taking care of our body, an obstacle for most college students. (especially me) We learned the story about Elijah and how God had to send an angel down to him just to help him realize that the condition of his body was not okay. “The angel helped him pay attention to the condition of his body as the vehicle that would enable him to take the journey that lay ahead.” Scripture tells us that it is “possible to glorify God in our bodies rather than merely glorifying the body.” Our body is a place where God’s Spirit has chosen to dwell. When we honor our body, we can begin to meet God in new and intimate ways.
Part of taking care of your body is exercising. Not many people enjoy running. Ever. But until this chapter, I didn’t think of exercising this way. When we exercise, endorphins are released making us happier, and giving us more energy. When we run or walk or bike, our minds have freedom to wonder. Freedom to wonder in the presence of God. Ruth explained her exercise journey as intimate time with God. Time when she can pray and be open before God in such a way that she forgets she is biking. When she hikes, she reflects on all the nature around her and it is evident that God has given us life to live, but we have to take care of that life. When we don’t take care of our body, be become incapable of doing the tasks that God has given us to complete.
We also learned to listen to our body. “What you need to know to be well is already in your body if you will just pay attention.” Ruth continues with, “Paying attention to what gives our body and our spirit a sense of life or drains life from us can help us stay connected with God’s guiding presence.”
“Intimacy happens when we bring more of ourselves into God’s presence.” When we pray we are to pray with our soul and our body, we are to pray with all of who we are. “When we pray with body and soul, or love with body and soul, or belong with body and soul. We are believing, responding, surrendering with all of who we are.”
Here’s the thing. I am bad at this. Really bad. If I would have taken a test over what I should be doing in regards to this chapter, I would have failed, miserably. As a college student, ministry intern, After School Care Counselor, and homework hater, I find rest, eating, and exercise nearly impossible to accomplish. But it makes sense. It makes sense why these three things are of vital importance.
One of the lines that struck me the most was when Ruth talked about Elijah’s story. How we cannot serve God the way we are intended to if we do not take care of ourselves. If we do not sleep, or eat right, we will not be able to accomplish the tasks in the ministry that God has called us to—that God has called me to. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to feel like I have let God down because I was too tired to do my best.
This chapter challenged me. It challenged me to change my lifestyle. God has chosen my body as a place to dwell, and I should be doing everything I can to make it a sacred and holy place for him to be. I will be completely honest–I have developed a “school, homework, work, homework” routine that pretty much skips eating, sleeping, and exercising, and it is going to be a hard routine to break. But I am tired- and what’s worse than that is that I am tired of being tired. I am tired of wanting to sleep in on Sundays because I had a long sleepless week, I am tired of wanting to call into work and take the day off so I can get a nap in (don’t worry- I don’t do either of those things), and I am tired of waking up tired. Even as I write this, I am tired. It’s nearing 1a.m. I am tired and it is mostly my fault. I have learned though through this chapter that it is not okay for me to be tired when I can somehow figure out a way to get to bed at a decent hour. It is not okay for my tiredness to interrupt my ministry, and it is definitely not okay for my tiredness to interrupt my God time. I want to be prepared and able to do the ministry and the work that God has called me to, and I want to be able now.
Here’s a little piece of trivia/not trivia/reflection on a reflection. I read and wrote about the wrong chapter. The class was assigned to do chapter 6, and I accidentally did chapter 5. As I have been thinking about how I totally screwed the assignment up, I realized that yeah, I’m not getting credit for he wrong chapter (thankfully I am able to redo it for next week), but this chapter was EXACTLY what I needed. It was exactly what I needed this week, and at this time in my life. So although I may have shed a tear…or a dozen when I realized that I had stayed up all night doing the wrong assignment (ironic), I am glad that I did. Because I need rest, and I needed to know that I need rest.