Help Along the Way: the spirit and body connection

First, a word about bodies~

[1]Dallas Willard defines the body as the power package of the human person. He further explains that bodies can be trained for good or ill. The body is not inherently bad. It is inherently good.

God called God’s creation, “Good.” Full stop.

Upon holding our children for the first time, we can make this leap. We can whole-heartedly say that the tiny toes are good, the wonder of infant eyelashes are good and beautiful.[2] We can say that the first steps taken with pudgy feet are indeed good. Still, we struggle to see our own bodies as good.

Let me just say, if this is your struggle, I get it.

After two caesarian sections, a double mastectomy, surgically induced menopause (TMI? Probably.), and a truckload of emotional eating, I get it.

Perhaps today, we can begin by acknowledging that how we feel about our children’s bodies, God feels about ours. God flat out adores our bodies.

Our children’s bodies are lovely and good and every time we look at them, we marvel.

God sees your body and marvels. Savor that.

If you’re feeling really gutsy (some days, I am, other days, not so much) stand in front of a mirror and just look at you. Can you see your body as God does, see your body as you see your child’s body?

If you can’t, ask God to give you that sight. Maybe pray something simple like “God help me to see my body as you do.” Begin here.

In today’s post (have we started yet?) we are discussing the fourth lecture by Dr. Vishton in the Great Courses series, Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive. As I listened to this lecture several times on eating habits I could not shake the spirit and body connection. The following is a handful of insights Dr. Vishton offers. See if you notice the body and spirit connection as well.

Habits begin early~

Eating habits laid down early in life stick with us into adulthood. If we model eating a healthy, balanced diet and we offer our children a healthy balanced diet- they will eat a healthy balanced diet.

I am assuming that we all know what a healthy balanced diet is. If you suspect that you might not know. You are not alone. I didn’t know for the first thirty years of my life. I grew up in a household that didn’t have much expendable income and so we ate on the cheap. Cheap food is often food that isn’t good for you. I highly recommend Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan. It’s short, simple and clear.

What we believe about God is also formed early in life. Our taste for God is shaped by our relationship with our parents and (thanks be to God) experiences in nature, experiences of wonder, awe, kindness, and compassion.

God is reaching toward our children from their very beginnings.

We can help create the conditions for this relationship by modeling our own relationship with God. Keep it real though, because artificially flavored spirituality tastes like cough syrup. We can also help our children set up habits towards relationship with God by helping them reflect on God’s presence in their everyday lives. Check out this blog post on the topic.

Listen to our wants~

I was surprised to learn from Dr. Vishton that when our bodies are balanced; (not addicted to sweets, etc.) we can trust our cravings. Our bodies will crave the food we need. If we need vitamin C, we will crave foods (foods we’ve eaten before) that have vitamin C.

In order to foster balance in our children and ourselves (we’re all eating out of the same kitchen, right?) eat a variety of whole foods and very rarely eat addictive foods which are those that contain processed sugar. Dr. Vishton unpacks the science behind this fact, but I don’t need a scientist to tell me that after Halloween all we want to eat is Kit Kats.

All children are wired to want God. Human persons come into this world balanced and craving a connection with God. We can maintain the spiritual balance of our children by listening to their wants, desires and longings and helping them communicate those to God. We human beings can become addicted to people pleasing and to wanting what others want (advertisements capitalize on this).

If we create safe space for our children to tell us their desires they get to know themselves and start to develop a healthy self. In order to give ourselves to God, we’ve got to have a self to give. BTW, creating safe space to voice and discuss desires doesn’t mean that children get what they want. It means we help them to hear, really and truly hear themselves.

Cultivating spiritual balance in children doesn’t stop there. We help children to take those realized wants, desires and longings to God. The Holy Spirit is their companion in this life. Developing habits of conversation with God are essential to balance. This includes not only talking with God, but listening to God.

Dr. Vishton offer us a final insight that I think applies not only to eating habits, but also spiritual habits. He suggests parents create the environment for good habits and model good habits, but forget the pressure. Pressuring children (or adults and especially teens) is an exercise in futility. It never works for the long term. Instead create the environment and live it out in front of them.

We are learning together, Dads and Moms, Seanmháthair agus Seanathair, عمة و خال, Friends and Teachers.


[1] If you are just now tuning into this blog series, it is a conversation with the Great Courses series, Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive by Peter M. Vishton.

[2] “Beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses”- Dallas Willard