Reclaiming a Holy Thing from the Dogs

So, a during the Carrie Prejean/Prop 8 kerfluffle, I wrote this:

“…if you’re going to take off your top for a camera, be prepared (sooner or later) to have to answer for it, both in this world, and the next…You’ll have to answer for it because when you profess yourself a Christian, you choose exile, and you will be held to a different standard, entirely, than the world’s.

In the next world, of course, you’ll have to answer to Christ, himself, who is much more merciful than the rest of us. He will likely ask you why you threw your pearls before swine.”

Or, of course, why she tossed her Holy Thing, which is her loved-into-creation body – the Temple of the Holy Spirit – to the Dogs.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, how cheaply we give ourselves away, how thoughtlessly we toss our valuables to those who will trash them. If we do not appreciate the value of who we are, and what we have to give the world, who else is going to?

By valuables, I mean many things. My friend Dick Meyer has advised me many times to stop blogging and “only write when you’re paid for it,” and it’s tempting, particularly when I have worked on something that took prayer and thought and care only to post it and have some troll come in and urinate all over it for a quick and malicious thrill. Not that my stuff is pearls, and the pissers are swine, but in a sense I have “given it away,” for free, not even tried to submit it somewhere to earn a few bucks and help our strained coffers, and then one does have to wonder; if I value my own work and my own ideas so little that I will throw them up on a blog for “free,” then why should I expect anyone to find value in them, or to do anything but sic their inner dog on them?

On the other hand, I also feel like putting up something thoughtful “for free,” is a rejection of the materialist mindset. Sometimes my husband will read something and say, “that’s good; couldn’t you have submitted it somewhere and you know, made a few bucks for the kid’s college tuition?” And sometimes I know he’s right, I could have sold the thing, if I’d tried to.

But I don’t want to only write when I’m getting paid for it. I want to write because I love to do it, because writing -whether I do it well or ill- is like breathing, to me. And I like to believe that for all of my weaknesses as a scribe (and I know I have many) I’ve built a little community here that enjoys exchanging ideas and engaging in the occasional polite tussle.

Also, of course, I am really a super-opinionated person and if I did not have the blog, my family would have to listen to me all the livelong day, and that would be bad…oh…very bad.

But I’m not really talking about money.

Thoughtlessly, we give away our boundaries, physical, spiritual and psychic – we allow breeching and encroaching without understanding that our natural or learned boundaries are not prisons but safety zones, the places reserved for ourselves and God and those most beloved to us.

All-too-seldom do we reserve those things for their proper dispersal. Instead, like Chesterton’s “dead things that go with the stream” instead of against it, we bow to the popular culture and morality. We give away our chastity for a very temporary pleasure that brings with it a strange hollowness; with repeated behavior it can only grow into an aching void.

We give away our sensible reserve, rather than be thought haughty. We give away our better instincts to kindness, in order to make the cheap joke, and when the snickers are over we must listen to our consciences.

All are guilty, from time-to-time, of throwing away our Holy Things, and when we do it, we contribute to the coarsening of the culture, and the hardening of our own hearts.

But I’m not really talking about our social trip-ups, either.

Yesterday I wrote about an Icon I am currently studying a great deal, in my prayer. It is called “Lord, Save Me.”

The lessons I am learning from this Icon are many and varied, and not all are for discussion. But as someone who has struggled with her weight for her whole life, and yo-yo’d spectacularly, the image of Peter sinking under the weight of his own doubt, self-awareness and fear – and the title, “Lord, Save Me” – are eloquent of the near-despair I can sometimes feel about this struggle. There are times when I thank God for my weight problems because they’re a handy “thorn in the flesh,” that keep keep me humbler than I would be otherwise. Most of the time, though, it’s “Lord, save me.” Save me from myself. Save me from the pointless act of constantly trying to fill my own aching void with the food that will never satisfy. Save me from this great battle.

But then I don’t really want anyone else’s great battle, either.

I was studying the Icon again this week (sometimes I just like to look at the thing because it is simply so beautifully rendered) and thinking about Peter kvetching and testing and prompting the Lord. Jesus responds by teaching him a lesson of great power and depth: that He, Jesus, is the Holiest within the Holy Thing that is Creation, and that we too are Holy Things, able to work and walk remarkably within that swirling, vibrant, energetic, ever-ancient-ever-new Holiness, if we but keep our eyes on the One.

Thinking about the Holy Thing of Creation brought thoughts of the Holy Thing that is our incredibly, perfectly-designed body. Thinking of that brought me back to “Lord, save me.” And that’s when I realized, I have for too-long tossed my Holy Thing to the Dogs of appetite, marketing, impulse, expediency, poorly-healed woulds, excuses and recent sloth.

I am determined to stop doing that, to stop throwing my Holy Thing, this Temple of the Holy Spirit, to these inner dogs. The food program is developing, the exercise regimen is challenging but surprisingly satisfying.

An old battle is being engaged with a weapon of new understanding. And each day I pray that Christ assist me, that he be pleased to carry out within me the restoration he has planned to carry out, in the fullness of time, in all Creation.

God had given us the wisdom
to understand fully the mystery,
the plan he was pleased
to decree in Christ

A plan to be carried out
in Christ, in the fullness of time,
to bring all things into one in him,
in the heavens and on earth.

There is an old burlesque bit: – a young woman meets an older woman at an entrance and she motions the older woman through with a catty, “age before beauty.” The older woman, walking through, looks back and responds sweetly, “pearls before swine.”

Pray for me, that whether an Age or a Pearl, I am able to talk through the narrowest of pathways without having to suck in my gut or sidle along, like a crab. That I can run the race with my Holy Thing reclaimed, restored and surrendered in trust, until I am finished, and like a libation poured out.

UPDATE:
In the comments section of yesterday’s piece, someone asked for older posts mentioning Holy Icons. My “Categories” thingy does not seem to be working properly just now, so here they are a few, and if I find more, I’ll add them:

The Cooling Shade (Part of the 2008 Online Retreat I tried out last summer.)
Saints Alive! (Discusses some books on Icons)
The Truth; There is Only One (wherein I yap about Icons of public figures)

UPDATE II:
Coincidentally, Sr_Lisa today twittered, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living..God formed man to be imperishable” from the first reading at mass this weekend. More mysteries about our Holy Temple. God’s perfect timing.


UPDATE III:

Also read Deacon Greg’s thoughtful homily: “The safest place for me to be is in the center of God’s will…”

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