Another girl in the accounting department and I both reverted to Christianity after we got married. (Recall – I actually converted at work. By which I mean, literally in a meeting with the customer. Yes indeed.) So one day we were standing there in the cube farm when I learned this fact, and I knew enough about her past life and mine to be able observe in solidarity, “It’s a lot easier to become a Christian after you’re married.” She knew what I meant, and she agreed on the spot.
Mortal sin is a potential hindrance to conversion every time.
Just being married, though, didn’t put me out of the woods on that point. The priest who ushered me back into the Church helped the spouse and I get our marriage convalidated, introduced us to NFP, and generally kept us pointed in a safe direction. I was finally learning the fullness of the Catholic faith.
A couple years in, Family Honor hosted a Theology of the Body conference in Charleston, not unlike the one coming up this fall in Southern California. I packed up the baby and went.
A decade and some later, I’m still unpacking it all.
The trouble with Christians is that we’re both body and soul. The tendency is to treat Christianity as being only about your soul, as if it were the “real” prize and your body were just the packing peanuts. Don’t ingest, don’t expose to open flame . . . just kind of keep the packaging from making a mess and you’re good.
Our bodies aren’t packaging. Our bodies are an integral part of us, and how we live in them is what our Christianity is. When we say humans are made in the image of God, male and female, the human body is part of that divine image. We literally can know something about God by looking at our bodies. Our bodies and souls, together, provide a snapshot of God. That’s what it means to be an image of something. My photo isn’t me, and it doesn’t tell you everything there is to know about me, but it is an image of me. It does reveal things about me you wouldn’t know if you didn’t have the photo.
Even when we talk about mortifying our bodies, in pious Christian language speaking of “hating” the flesh, what we mean is this: Use it properly. Live a rightly ordered life. To prepare your soul for heaven is to prepare your soul for your heavenly body.
One of the things I do is teach sex-ed. I write about a lot of things, but I write about topics like porn, and BDSM, and name-that-thing-nice-girls-don’t-talk-about, because what we do with our bodies is what we’re doing to ourselves. You matter. You were created to be treated with love and respect. We live in a world where people have no idea what that looks like. They don’t know what it means to be loved and respected.
That’s what the Theology of the Body is about.
What does love really look like?
Sometime in the months leading up to my conversion, I failed to fill out my time card at work properly. The department secretary, a Christian, came and told me I hadn’t given her the form I owed her.
I started making excuses in my defense. She said, “I forgive you.” I kept making excuses. She kept repeating: “I forgive you.”
This was utterly foreign to me. I had no understanding — none — that it could be possible that I did something wrong, and someone would acknowledge it was wrong and simply forgive me. No recriminations. No gloating. Nothing. Please just fill out the form now, our relationship is restored.
There’s a long list of before-and-afters for me as a Christian. People who knew me before my conversion can vouch for the fact that I was no picture of saintliness. People who know me now will observe that my principles have radically changed, but my ability to live up to those principles is still woefully lacking. We call ourselves “practicing” Catholics because we still don’t have it right, even after years of trying. We’re still practicing.
Studying the Theology of the Body doesn’t make me holy. But what it does do is make it possible for me to try — because I finally understand what it is I’m supposed to be trying for, and why, and how it works. We can’t practice a skill we don’t even know we’re supposed to have. And when that skill is living in the half of your being that is integrally connected to the other half your being, well, wow. It’ll change your life.
#TOBTalk image courtesy of http://kennedybrownrigg.com/tobtalk/.