Is it possible that God also cared for Elijah and helped him to refill his “resilience reservoir” with an exercise plan?
All this week, begin in silence, turning your attention to God. God’s clear promise is to be with us always. Most of us still find it challenging to stay aware of and connected to that reality. Brother Lawrence spoke of “practicing” the presence of God in the hope that awareness of God’s presence and companionship would increasingly pervade his every waking moment. As you “practice” awareness of God with you, use your body and your surroundings to help you. Opening your hands (palms up) in your lap can signal receptivity. Lighting a candle can remind you of the Invisible Other, God in the room with you. Enjoy God as God enjoys you.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched (Elijah) and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.
1 Kings 19:7-9
God demonstrated loving, personal, attentive care for Elijah in protecting his sleep, feeding him, and hydrating him. Is it possible that God also cared for Elijah and helped him to refill his “resilience reservoir” with an exercise plan? Admittedly, the notion of an exercise plan doesn’t really translate to the ancient world...but given all that has been called out through modern science about the importance of vigorous movement to flushing stress from our bodies and restoring our experience of well-being (for one articulation: Stress Cycle Article.pdf), we might not pass so quickly by the detail of Elijah’s 40-day hike to and climb up Mt. Horeb.
There is no clear agreement on the location, and thus the statistics, of Mt. Horeb, so we don’t know precisely how strenuous Elijah’s journey was. We do know that it took over a month and included traversing something called out as a mountain. (There must have been climbing involved!) Surely the length of the journey invited Elijah to disciplines of solitude and silence, to reflection and conversation with God. But, God is restoring Elijah by attending to the whole of his person. We should not miss the physical component of his rebuilding of resilience.
It’s surprisingly easy to miss the reality that spiritual care often begins with physical care. Resilience will require attention to your body’s needs.
- Take a few minutes to listen to your body today. In a relaxed but alert position, scan your body from head to feet, noticing any sensations you become alert to (e.g. tingling, pressure, tightness, temperature,...). What is your body telling you it needs? (A word to those of us who live largely unaware of our bodies: This could feel very odd! Extend yourself to it as best you can and without pressure to have the “right” experience. You may notice that you’re not sure how to notice your body. That is honestly good noticing.)
- How are you caring for your body through movement these days? Is it sufficient for your resilience needs? What might you want to adjust?
- What would change about your care for your body through movement if you more deeply understood and experienced exercise as part of God’s design for you to live in resilient well-being?
Talk with God as you would to a friend about your reflections. As you can, thank God for the body you’ve been given. Ask God to help you pay helpful attention to your body.
Bonus Activity -- Shake It Out
Experts in the mental health and trauma recovery fields have identified that tension and stress are helpfully released from the body through vigorous shaking. Once again extending yourself toward your body (despite what your thoughts might say!), experiment with this “Shake It Out” exercise from First Aid Arts of Seattle, WA (firstaidarts.org/covid-19).
- Count out loud to 8. As you count, vigorously shake your right hand out to each count.
- Repeat with the left hand, and then the right leg, and then the left leg.
- Repeat the whole process but this time counting out loud to 4.
- Repeat, counting out loud to 2.
- Repeat, counting out loud to 1.
- End each sequence by shaking or wiggling your whole body and taking a breath.
- You can do this in slow motion or speeding up as you count down.
- You can make a sound to represent release or say something to yourself like, “I’m safe. I’m letting go.”
Scripture wisely instructs us to make the spiritual journey with others for the help and support of companionship. As you invest time in personal reflection, invest also in communal connection. Join our 12 PM Zoom Challenge Gathering today (and everyday, Monday - Friday) and/or with your household, your small group, a friend,...
- Families and households could do the Shake It Out exercise together...or do a raucous, after-dinner Dance Party! Bonus points if you end in deep belly laughs -- also good for flushing stress from our bodies!
- For those who feel somewhat estranged from our bodies, take the risk to ask a trusted friend to pray with you for a fresh start in that “relationship.”
Join us on Zoom: Monday - Friday at 12 PM
Meeting ID: 818 5542 9409