I've been going to yoga on Monday evenings lately. Last night as I was there, somewhere between my downward dog and pigeon, I decided once a week may not be enough. It occurred to me that I love yoga. My friends have been proclaiming its wonders for years, and I've gone with them from time to time. But it hadn't really clicked until recently. I discovered the poetic nature about it. The fluid motions mimic dance, giving the body both wellness and art. At the same time, I am both weak and strong. My muscles quiver as they work to sustain my posture, feeling both that they will collapse at any given moment yet continue to hold me upright. As I ache to return to a relaxed state, I feel my body grow stronger. Sweat drips from my brow and my body thanks me for the challenge. Afterward, I feel strong to the core and balanced both physically and mentally.
It is the notion of balance that strikes me, I think, and more than just that which I experience from yoga. In several matters in my life, balance has been playing a more important role, and I am oh so grateful for it. I want to say that Christians are terrible at balance, but I am hesitant to throw a blanket statement out there. It could be simply my personal experience, but really, I think that I am not alone in this. Please, correct me if I am wrong and am the only one who has felt completely off balance as a result of modern evangelicalism.
Here are my thoughts. Christianity, at least as portrayed by modern evangelicalism, scarcely allows for balance. To allow for balance allows for being human, and we certainly can't be having that now, can we? For years and years, my perception was always to strive to "be holy because I am holy." (Lev 11:44/1 Peter 1:16) and to "put to death the self." So, I'm still working out the theological implications of these verses, but from what I've seen and recently experienced, modern evangelicalism has taken them way off course and used them to beat the bloody hell out of those who seek to be holistic followers of The Way. Obviously, "being holy," and "dying to self" aren't bad ideas. The bad idea is that somehow we are able to, and should, do these things on our own.
This leads to nothing but loss and devastation.
We (Christians, collectively, or perhaps just me) are told repeatedly that we are not doing enough. So we strive continually to do more and more to put to death the self. In the end, we wind up doing just that. When we attempt to kill the self in us, death of self is achieved. Our "self" becomes corroded in our quest for holiness and we end up hallowed shells of who we could and are meant to be. However, when we stop striving, seek balance, and allow ourselves to be the self God created us to be, there is life...abundantly.
This is something I've been mulling over for quite some time now, but recently has been in the forefront of my mind. It first caught my attention when I was reading C.S. Lewis. I believe it was in Mere Christianity when he states, "We were never intended to be purely spiritual beings." When I read that, it was like a previously unknown window had just been opened in a dingy, barricaded cellar. Fresh air filled my lungs and I suddenly had an inkling that it was possible to be...normal. To be human. To be me.
Despite the fact that our created bodies and minds have needs, modern evangelicalism tells us these needs are bad. We are taught to keep ourselves constantly in check for fear of "falling away." Again, keeping one's self in check is not a bad idea. However, often "keeping yourself in check" ends up simply denying the self most things and starving our physical and emotional selves to near anorexia. Moderation is not in the vocabulary of many evangelicals. The verse "Don't give the devil a foothold," gets thrown around a lot. So in order to keep that darned devil away, it's best to just avoid anything that remotely looks like it might be something he's dangling in front of our face. It's best to just live our lives in a little sheltered box, making sure to stab whatever aspect of human nature dares to raise its ugly head in us and kill it dead.
Don't do that!
Live! Find balance! Go to church. Pray. Worship. Fellowship. These are good things. But then...Eat. Drink. Be merry. Taste. Touch. Feel. Listen. Love. Be moved. Experience this life as it unfolds before you. Be yourself. It's okay, it's who you were created to be.