I headed out the driveway, nervously watching my husband waving from the living room window with all five kids roaming in rooms somewhere behind him. Looking back, I know it was the Holy Spirit driving me. Afraid of getting lost. Winter. Three hours away in Lancaster. Scared to death. I knew no one. Why was I doing this? I almost turned back. Oh, right, it was my first Theology of the Body Institute class, and I needed to get answers to a whole bunch of questions.
An hour or so into the drive and I started to let myself get excited. A class! I’m a teacher, and a life-long student. I had my notebook and my pens. I just love the classroom atmosphere. I was going to learn theology of the body (TOB) so I could teach it to my kids. My brain was all fired up.
Two days in and I realized… something else was up!
God smiled. He watched me fumble interiorly and slowly find my way. He knew my heart had to be cracked open because that’s the only way to heal. He knew it was going to hurt but He allowed it for the glory. So many buried feminine wounds, family wounds, crisis of faith wounds. So much energy exerted striving to cover it all up.
The narrative in my head went something like this: Make sure they see you’re smart, sharp and “put together.” Little did I know that God ordained it was time to take the masks off and be utterly undone. He did it gently, of course, with deep respect and through the message of the theology of my own body.
The human body includes right from the beginning…the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence. – TOB January 16, 1980
God chose “human body persons” to be in class that week who really saw me. Just me. The me I am in Christ. I think that is the greatest gift I have received through TOB prayer, study and friendships. The understanding and acceptance that I’m a gift, given and received in real love. It sounds too simple and like everyone should know that’s what we’re made for. But most of us don’t fully live that way.
As I heard the message preached so powerfully by Christopher West and experienced real encounters of love with others, the undoing of old patterns of behavior started to pave a pathway to freedom. It felt so good! I was seen. I felt known. And I was loved for being me. And I began to see that my own special, pure and unique look of love could bless someone! My own special, pure and unique way of saying something could change someone’s heart.
When I give generously, I see and receive God Himself. He’s everywhere…especially deep in heart of the person in front of me right now. The one He put there just for me. Exchange of God gazes and God words. All grace.
Friday came. I don’t know if the urge to stay or the urge to get home was greater. But Our Lord knew. It was time to go home to my vocation. The ones He put here just for me. He has called me to those God exchanges – that giving and receiving of persons to persons. It was time to go home and carpool and cook. It was time to go home and give more of my heart to my husband.
Fifteen years have passed. TOB roots are firmly planted in my heart as I teach, spiritually direct, and enjoy grown children and grandchildren. Life is still like meandering across those winding Amish roads that led to home. But I had become a different me.
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