A Weary Traveler’s Confession and Reflection: The Story our ‘Bodies’ Tell
A couple of months ago I was sitting on an airplane into the 21st hour of what was supposed to be an 8 hour trip, making a confession to myself. The evening before we weary 170+ passengers had finally debarked in Seattle – not Portland where we were supposed to land, but couldn’t because of weather. We were a sorry mess.
On this last leg of my trip, I’d been on the airplane for 9 hours, and we were only supposed to be on it for 5. The 4 extra hours were spent flying from one airport to another looking to land, then circling in the air around Seattle, and then at last sitting on the runway for an hour. We were all truly grateful for a safe arrival, wherever it might be, but I was annoyed that I was in Seattle and not home with my husband in Portland.
I was also annoyed that everything seemed to be conspiring to make our lives miserable. It took a while for the gate agent and flight crew, and whoever else was in on the decision, to finally decide what to do with us. First we were allowed to only sit and wait on the airplane. Then we were allowed to congregate in the gate area. Finally, we were told that we would be spending the night in Seattle. Some scrambled to find another way to their final destination. The rest of us cued up in 4 messy lines waiting to be served by agents, who had various levels of experience with our particular situation. It was almost midnight, most of the airport staff had gone home.
Of course, I chose the wrong line. The agent in my line had not done this before. Then the computers kept crashing. I thought, we can send a satellite to Mars, land a Mars Rover and continually take pictures to send back to earth, but we can’t keep a simple computer system from crashing. The gate agent in charge announced on her speaker system that things were moving along, and I called out ‘Not really. This line is not moving.’ The grumpy MK was obviously out of her cave.
That’s when I noticed her again. At the beginning of the trip, I observed her as she went by my seat during boarding. She was memorable. I can still see her. She was dressed comfortably, middle-aged with non-descript brown hair pulled back, but she had the most amazing warm and peaceful face. I thought she would probably be a great person to know. She would probably be a wonderful friend. Then in that moment later in Seattle, when I was loudly lamenting my frustration, I saw her again. She was way back at the end of my line having a quiet, but obviously pleasant conversation with another passenger. She looked happy. Actually, she looked content, at peace with herself and her circumstances.
Who Acts Like Jesus?
Seeing her, I felt convicted. I instinctively understood that she was acting like Jesus, and I wasn’t. Whether she believed in him or not, I don’t know, but in that moment I wanted to be like her. I didn’t feel shame, which is a feeling of humiliation translating into “I am a bad person.” No, I felt convicted. I was guilty of behaving badly because I was tired, frustrated, and my needs were not being met.
So, on the plane finally going home, I reflected on the night before, about my frustration and this interesting woman. I had to confess. I was in the ‘me’ zone then, not the ‘Jesus’ zone. But more than that, I was arrested again by the power of one’s presence to communicate to others a better way to be. She was the most human person in that chaos and misery.
Bodies Communicate All of the Time
Most of my research and reflection is on the way our bodies are communicating all the time. I’m especially interested in how this affects our ‘love and grace’ message as Christians. Our bodies carry our most deeply ingrained convictions about who we are and what matters to us. This message is physically perceived. Without words, bodies tell our stories in palpable, connectional and emotional ways. The body is constantly communicating along a continuum of either isolation or connection, anxiety or calm, depth or shallowness.
Most of us are mentally unaware of this. We tend to ‘live’ in our heads or on our mobile devices. Yet physically and mostly unconsciously, our bodies have antennae out all the time, interpreting whether another is safe or unsafe, peaceful or chaotic, self-absorbed or overly other-absorbed. Just seeing the woman again was all I needed to understand in an instant what was truly more important at that time.
Training Our Bodies
As believers this matters. We all have grumpy days, but we don’t want to have grumpy lives. The fully incarnated Jesus modeled an amazing physical presence. We don’t know what he looked like, but we do know he was approachable. Children would easily go to him, as would women. Sinners would feel instinctively safe enough to draw near, even to touch him or ask for favors. Our bodies, no matter the circumstance, can mimic the presence of Christ. We have died to ourselves and are raised up in Christ to be his new creation. So, how do I train my body to reflect more of Jesus and less of the un-resurrected creature?
Some thoughts for you and me…
- Notice the body – The body is the first responder to tension of any kind. So we notice if breathing has changed, shoulders are tight, a headache is coming on, the stomach is uneasy, or the face is not relaxed. My husband tells me I stop breathing regularly, and I notice that my shoulders and neck ache. We embody the living Christ. Therefore, paying attention to the story-telling of our bodies is important and necessary spiritual work.Paul wrote, that we carry in our bodies the death of Jesus, “so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” II Corinthians 4:10
- Go to your Jesus place – When we find ourselves shifting and coming out of our wild caves, we go back to the Lamb, who was slain for the ages. As believers we do not have the luxury of throwing a tantrum. We are ambassadors of reconciliation, priests of the living Lord. Discover how to center your body quickly in Christ.“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…and that you are not your own?” I Corinthians 6:19
- Pray a breath prayer – Craft a personalized breath prayer that keeps you centered in Christ and out of your annoyances, such as “Christ, your peace,” or “Spirit, your grace.” Construct a prayer that connects your body to the bigger picture of a sovereign God and a peaceable Kingdom. Use it a lot, as often as you need it. I certainly needed to use mine.“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thessalonians 5:23
Next time I’m weary and frustrated, I want others to experience me as I did the warm and calm woman. I believe this is my real witness.
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