Three weeks ago I walked into a room for a meeting, only to find half a person on a couch. (see photo) I literally gave a little jump but was relieved to see that it was a prop for a magician’s show. Still a bit unnerving, however. How would you feel if you saw the bottom half of a person sitting (sort of) on a couch?
Yet how often can we or others around us feel ‘disembodied’, a part of us missing? The definition of the word disembodied has to do with losing connection, being separated from our body. Or a part of our body. It can happen when our focus becomes so much about the world to come or the future to come or anything to come that we lose the present. We lose connection to the vital part of ourselves, our body, our life. For those of us that are people of faith, the invisible world is important. Spirit is important, soul is important.
But this should not be at the cost of the body. The physical is also important. How we treat our bodies is important. Or how we don’t treat them. We are living most in integrity when all of us is connected, is ’embodied’. It is also the healthiest way to live: emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually. How we treat other people’s bodies is also vitally important, not taking advantage, not taking what is not ours to take.
This week I finished a haunting book that will stick with me for a while. It is called Holy Ghost Girl, and is the memoir of a woman who grew up in her first few years on the ‘saw dust trail’. This was the term for the revival circuits common in the United States from the 1920’s onwards. The author of this book, Donna Johnson, was the daughter of the pianist for a revivalist named David Terrell who was on the circuit from the late 1950’s. It is not an easy story to read.
Terrell, who is still preaching at 89 today (I went on Youtube and saw one of his meetings last month), spent five years in prison in the early 1980’s for tax evasion. He also had several mistresses in different states, including the mother of the memoir writer. But even after the understandable cynicism that the author goes through, she still can find places of miracle healing in Brother Terrell’s ministry, adding to the overall mystery of faith and human frailty and deception.
The saddest part of the book for me, however, was how the children of these revivalists were treated. For the author and her circle of children, they spent time with as many as fifteen families over the course of their first 10 years, as their mother was on the road from city to city with Brother Terrell. As someone who raised with my wife two daughters in India, I can understand the challenge of ministry and family. But thankfully, though never perfect, we had our priorities right. We did not sacrifice our children to the idol of ministry.
You see we can be disembodied from our own families, those closest to us. Those we have been entrusted with as a holy stewardship of grace. This can happen in any career of course, not just pastoral or mission ministry. It happens when we ignore or neglect those right in front of us for some kind of envisioned future, a future that has become more important than the responsibilities of the present.
In Brother Terrell’s case, he was unfaithful to his wife and children while spending night after night declaring a Gospel of Good News. He saw miracles in his ministry by the sheer grace of God, but for his own close family what he shared and lived was anything but good news. He lived a disembodied life, a disconnected life. From himself and his own conscience, and from those he had been entrusted with. Hopefully by now that has changed in his life at 89 years old.
It is so easy to lose part of yourself, even for good causes or a beautiful future. But then when we arrive at the future we realize we left behind those closest to us, or even ourselves.
What are you disconnected from? Or whom? Have you neglected your body for a seemingly good cause? Have you neglected your family to somehow gain a future that will never arrive? Is there part of you missing? Have you gained the world only to have lost your very soul?