A Theology of the Whole Body

Yesterday, I wrote about how the transcendentals–the good, true and beautiful–can help us discern how we most commonly encounter God, and how this helps us either discerning how best to try and deepen our relationship with God, or, if we are struggling to see His presence, where we can start our search for Him in the midst of our daily lives.  So how can this knowledge help me deepen my relationship with God?

“A Theology of the Head, Heart, Hands and Feet” is a phrase I came across many years ago during my theology studies. Over the years, I have taken the original intent (in which the author used it to describe the process of how people come to faith and belief) and modified it to explain how our spiritual life needs to encompass all of who we are—the head (our continual growth in knowledge of God and His Church), the heart (our life of prayer and meditation), the hands (our service of others through the works of mercy) and the feet (where we “go out into the desert” to spend time with God on retreat). Our spiritual life should be attentive to ensuring that all of these aspects are present as we are living out our life of faith.

So if we take the knowledge of which transcendental we are most commonly drawn to, then we also will become cognizant of how we commonly have grown in coming to know, love and serve God. For example, I am passionate about the truth, and throughout my life, I have found that ideas initially tend to be the driving force for me, especially when I am coming to knowledge about something for the first time. This is true of any topic, and my husband can attest to the number of books, magazines and articles I will read and websites I will scour when I become enthralled with a new task, hobby, or project. In the same way, I have noticed that God tends to get my attention by engaging my mind first, and then my heart, hands and feet will follow.

In addition, this understanding of how God tends to engage with you initially can help you deepen your relationship with Him, because we tend to be a little “lacking” in other areas of our relationship with Him. How so? Well, if we tend to come to know, love and serve God through ideas, then we probably will find ourselves always signing up for the latest Bible Study, or lecture, or listening to talks, or reading books that broaden our knowledge of God rather than looking to join the rosary group, go on a retreat, or go help build a Habitat for Humanity house.

Now, I am not suggesting that just because we have a tendency in our spiritual life that it means that we are incapable or unable to encounter God in other ways. Rather, I am suggesting that we have to guard against not allowing God to encounter us as He pleases, and that is why being aware of the health of our entire “body”–mind, heart, hands and feet–in the spiritual life is vital if we desire to encounter the fullness of what God has store for us.