Holy Words

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wished to be part of a culture rich with tradition and  weekly rituals like the Sabbath prayers or traditional dances. I was hungry for a way of living that felt more embodied and yet transcendent.

More than this, I craved holy words. When I looked out across the Alps, listened to a hurting friend, or walked in my neighborhood in the glory of a spring day, I longed for a prayer to rise to my lips that fit a moment like this.

I was looking for a liturgy.


We are liturgical beings. Humans were created as both a soul and a body, commanded to love God with all our “heart, soul, mind, and strength.” We walk through the world with a set of habits (a liturgy) that have formed the way we interact with it. Our heart, soul, mind, and strength are all directing us like a compass towards the place where we hope to find Life. We are led not just by our thoughts but by our desires. We are hungry beings.

If I don’t consciously choose a gospel-centered liturgy, inevitably a consumer-centered or pleasure-centered one will end up choosing me. So then why not embrace a liturgy that forms me by its very habits into someone that thinks and lives (mind, emotions, & body) more like Christ?

God’s action in Christ insists that each person matters, and matters deeply, and that mattering has as much to do with our bodies as it does with our souls. Our bodies matter because without them we aren’t human. Without our bodies, we might be angels or demons, but we wouldn’t be people.
….[But] if God becomes human, it means that the very stuff of our lives can be infused with the holy, the true, the good. If God becomes human, then there’s something essential and true to be found in the human experience—there’s something essential and true to be discovered in our very flesh and blood, bone and sinew.
-Tara Owens, Embracing the Body


Many of you know that in the past 16 months I went through a season of struggling with some serious health issues. During this time and in my recovery since, I realized how much of a disembodied life I was living. I plowed through my days almost entirely in my head–never stopping to pay attention to and engage my body.

What I have learned as I try to pay attention to my body in a more healthy way is that it can tell me a whole lot about my heart as well. For example, I might be telling myself internally, “I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong,” but if my hands are clenched and my shoulders are tense then my body is actually telling me the truth in that moment, not my mind. It may seem obvious, but for me this practice of listening to my body as a form of discipleship has been completely new.

As Henri Nouwen put it, “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” I love to learn and I think it’s hugely important,  but we don’t just learn by putting information in our heads. The best of teachers know that to truly get their students to learn, they have to walk it out kinesthetically and wrestle through it emotionally.

I really like this post by a friend that discusses the power of liturgy in our lives:

Liturgy is a structure that structures the lives of those who participate in it. Participating in worship—liturgy means the “work of the people,” pointing to the active role of the worshipers—shapes people into something, hopefully more fully formed and Christ-like Christians.

So, what structures are we following throughout the day/week that are discipling us? What habits are we forming that are forming us? How can we engage our bodies as well as our minds to become the whole and healthy person God created us to be? These are important questions as we live in a world that is constantly bombarding us with a rival version of “the good life.”
Whether we realize it or not, all of us are looking for a liturgy.



One thought on “Holy Words

  1. Pingback: All the Life We Cannot See | downwind of grace

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