As a child I visited different types of churches with family members and friends who were Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal…you name it. I sat in pews and marveled at the statues, flickering prayer candles and fragrant incense during services in Latin that made no sense and perfect sense all at once. I got the gist, that we were there to seek God’s presence and counsel. More penny candy may have summed up my prayers at the time, but the jewel in the crown was believing I could connect with the Divine, that a loving power I couldn’t see could be touched, felt, joined.
As a teenager, I wondered how to reconcile my flesh with spirit given all those stern warnings from parents, teachers and preachers about sin and “bad thoughts.” I lived on the West Side of Detroit where people were disturbed at the sight of 14-year old pregnant girls, but not shocked. Hormones and whorish ways made for many overflowing church pews where girls warred with their gifts from the spirit, their flesh.
I sought to understand how the Divine, by all names Holy, designed us with senses meant for pleasure, artists with vision, musicians with sound, writers with imagination, chefs with palates and daring, supple flesh so full of movement. Dance. Muscle building. Martial arts. Athletics. Giving birth. Love. Surely, the physical world was part and parcel of the spiritual world, our bodies a celebration of both.
With decades under my belt, I’m more convinced than ever that our flesh gives us courtside seats to the spectacle of divine power that flows to and through us each and every day. It’s there when we are at our best and it’s there when we go off the rails – anger, drinking, drugs, cheating, depression — Spirit never leaves.
We have to get back to center when we feel cut off or out of whack, when it seems like circumstances are beyond our control. We have the power within to regroup, use this flesh to bow in prayer, bend in a yoga pose, walk or run with music to fuel the burn.
We have to light the fire to remind us of our dual nature. Flesh made spirit. Spirit made flesh. Faith the tie that binds the union. Joy in the knowledge that we are here by design and for a purpose that is both sacred and profane, that is realizable and to be relished, that is the harvest of fruit and the seed from whence it grew.