More embodiment

2012 – Vagina Monologues. I had no idea what to expect. What I knew is that talking about sex and anatomy thereof made me feel anxious, naive and embarrassed. And I’ve never liked those feelings. Intellectually, I know that all human beings have some kind of sexual identity or desire. But, perhaps because of my upbringing or church background, I couldn’t feel that in my body, down to my core.

In my mission to practice embodiment for Lent, I chose to participate in my seminary’s production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

“Experience of self as an active subject in history and experience of God as a liberator are a unity. It is in this deeply personal-and-religious dimension that women are caught up in new experiences, which when articulated move toward new speaking about God. … In struggle, in connectedness, in particularity, in the everyday round of life’s duties, in the love of self and other women, in the love of men in nonsubordinate ways, God is being experienced in new terms.” — Elizabeth Johnson, “She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse”

After the production, I checked out some other secular-world shows via YouTube. They are uniformly provocative and sexy. Performing them in a sacred setting doesn’t make them any less provocative — in fact it probably makes them more provocative. Perhaps the most provocative for anyone in a Western culture church setting with embedded dualistic antithetical views of body and spirit is the message that our bodies — our female bodies — are loved by God. And we know this because our female bodies are loved by women.

In rehearsal, I learned to breathe and feel my feet touching the ground. I learned to look people in the eye. I learned to speak prayers with my bodily movements. I learned –not through the text, but through enacting — that God loves my body. Before one performance, a professor who was tasked with praying for the performance shared with me that she looked up at the spring sky and the huge 100-plus-year-old dome in the tower room where we were staging the show. She envisioned God standing above that dome, crouching down and giving birth to the world. We were performing in God’s vagina! I love that.

I’m now working on a Bible study of body images for women, and I’m considering making part of the study a writing exercise about vaginas. What’s great about your vagina? What might you be willing to share?

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