Words and the Body
My friends and I are reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. We, like all other subcultures, have fads. The Enneagram is all the rage. In the 90s there was the Ezzos’ Growing Kids God’s Way and Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. Although I haven’t embraced every fad, I have grown immensely from many of them. After learning about the Enneagram, I sure wish I knew about it when I was raising my kids. Turns out we have three 8s in our family. That. Explains. A lot. Once when I asked a friend to dinner, she responded, “I don’t think we can because you and Steve will exhaust us.” She was serious. Our house rocked on its foundations. Fast, fun and furious. It’s always good to grow in our awareness of God, self, and others. I remembering in my early thirties learning that Steve’s love language is affirmation and touch. It used to bug me that Steve needed so much verbal stroking. For crying out loud, why did such a confident man need me to constantly tell him lovely things about himself? Obviously, affirmation is not one of my love languages!I confess as a young married woman I withheld affirmation from Steve because it bugged me that he needed it. Like it was silly, immature, and needy. There’s a Proverbs that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12) I was withholding hope, love, and goodness. Ugh. Not a pretty picture. The book of James tells us that words have the power to bring death or give life. Somewhere in my marriage, I decided that I would speak words of affirmation to my husband. Truth is I often thought beautiful thoughts about Steve; I just never said them. One day I made myself record every time I had a nice thought about him. I filled two pages back and front. (Don’t be mistaken, there were many times I thought about punching him between the eyes and breaking his glasses. Just keeping it real!) At one point I had to reckon with why was I withholding life-giving words from him. Then I stopped withholding. I started saying what I thought. (Yup, scary.) If he walked by and I thought, “He has a nice butt,” I told him. If I watched him father Madison and my heart was overwhelmed, I told him. When he gave me wise counsel, I told him I appreciated that he was wise. I said what I thought. I let beauty and goodness roll down. I’m 52 (almost 53) and I’ve been married for 30 years and yet I’m still being enlightened on how to love my person. One of the things I’ve learned from Scripture is the body matters. There’s so much to discuss with that statement but for now let me say, as I’ve aged I’ve come to appreciate the body. The embodiment of a person. Mind, body, and soul --- present with.
"Bodily connection is the basis not only of marriage but of all our human relationships. We begin our lives and enter the community in the body of another, sharing in flesh and blood. Our earliest experiences as a human fetus are in and of the body of another. As women, we have the capacity to carry another within us, blurring lines between the community and ourselves. As we image God in our sexuality, we experience our profound human capacity to enter into a variety of life-giving and life-receiving relationships." (Lilian Barger, Eve's Revenge)
When I turned 50 I became heightened to the embodiment of my husband. No. I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about being present with his whole being. Now that I’m older and wrinklier, I see decay in the mirror – I realize my time is limited. My time with Steve is limited. This is why Solomon tells us a wise person thinks about death. (Ecclesiastes 7:4) Truth is age; mortality orders us. In Solomon’s old age he concluded, when all is said and done “there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work… these pleasures are from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 1:24) You need to know eating in ancient times was about being with your tribe, long nights of lingering over food and wine and having conversations about nothing and something with your people. Solomon who gave his youth to building, acquiring, and owning, was ordered by his mortality. When I was younger, I was caring for so many other bodies. I was building a career and caring for a home, and most of the time life felt like I was on the basketball court just pivoting. No time to even run the court, just pivot and pass. Whew. In the whirlwind, Steve and I cared for each other. Now that my kids are grown and our careers are established, I have more time to focus more on him. His embodied presence. Now I find myself awake in the night just looking at him while he sleeps. Drinking him in. His bald head, wrinkled forehead, too large of a nose, and well-defined arms. I look intently cause I don’t ever want to forget this man’s bodily presence. I’m not a cuddler, but now that I’m older I tend to reach over and gently place my hand on his arm, shoulder, or hip. He snores, and my heart feels peace. I’m acutely aware that time is ticking, and a day will come when he won’t be with me. I won’t wake and see his bald head or hear his snores. There will be a day when I can’t hear his millionth idea for the day or rebuff his sarcastic humor or be wowed by his intelligence. I want to drink it all in while I can. Mortality is ordering me. This is what I know --- as of now.