With this post, we’ll start to “drill down” to what theology of the body really means. It’s great news, like cold water to a thirsty soul, so we need to know how to share that excitement and vision with others. In this post, and for the next few weeks, I’ll deliver simple bullet points that can all be fit together to answer the question: “What exactly IS the theology of the body?”
When I Google’d “theology of the body testimonials,” I got things like:
- It was a game-changer for my marriage.
- I wanted to jump up and down!
- It gave me answers that I never got as a kid growing up.
- It has opened my eyes to see truly who I am as a woman
- It has changed the way I think about what it means to be a man
- It literally changed the course of my life.
What is it about the theology of the body that so dramatically affects people, that makes them want to shift the trajectory of their lives?
TOB is primarily a way of seeing the world that “syncs” with our deepest wisdom and our personal experience. It puts into words something we already know to be true. That’s why people tend to say, “Ah ha!” when they first hear about theology of the body. We have a sense of recognition, even though we’ve never heard these words before. Like someone falling passionately in love, we cry, “TOB, where have you been all my life?!”
We know innately that our bodies matter. After all, we’re concerned with them all day long every day: “I’m sleepy. I’m hungry. I’m hot. My head itches. I need to go to the bathroom. I can’t see without my glasses. I feel like dancing. I need chocolate.” And on and on and on. Our bodies “talk” to us all day long!
Of course they matter!
So when John Paul gives us the theology of why the body matters, we recognize it to be true. When he shows us that the body is good, we’re relieved. When he says that the actions we do with our bodies have significance, we get it.
More precisely, when we begin to understand the high theology of sexuality, and compare it to the low experience many of us have had, we jump out of our chairs and yell “Yippee!” Because we knew deep in our hearts that something was wrong with that low experience, and no one ever told us what it was.
We sensed something important was missing, but we buried our questions because everyone said it was the be-all and end-all of modern life. So why did it feel so empty?
Sometimes, to find what was missing, we poured ourselves even more desperately into something that could never give us what we wanted, just guaranteeing that we would get more of that Big Empty.
Theology of the body told us why it was empty. It let us know that the finest part of us was alive and well, because that part of us knew something was wrong! We were thankful for that empty feeling because it was persistently telling us that there was something better, so much better.
Theology of the body showed us what that “better” was and assured us of its existence. Did we desire undying, self-giving love, love that transcended the ups and downs of life and the differences between men and women? John Paul showed us it was possible and beautiful, that we were designed for precisely that sort of love, that it wasn’t just an unrealistic dream in a hostile world. He showed us how to find it, and be it.
Theology of the body was like the full moon coming out from behind the clouds. Suddenly we could see what we’d been searching for.
So the first part of our definition of theology of the body is: it’s great news because it answers the deepest desires of our hearts.