At the prompting of my friend Richard, I am posting an teensy article I wrote regarding my initial experiences with Theology of the Body. I’ll probably post more regarding it later, as long as links to audio from times I’ve gotten to speak on it. Thanks! And here…..we…….go:
How TOB Improved My Piano Playing
In late spring of 2007, on a nearly complete whim, Jacelyn (my wife) and I visited the third night in a four-night series on something called “Theology of the Body” (TOB). We arrived 15 minutes late to the 1-hour session and left having begun a life-changing process. In just 45 minutes, this priest, Fr. Mike Schmitz, had effectively changed my whole perspective of my wife in particular and women in general. I left thinking, “Crap! I can’t be the way I was anymore! If I’ve truly been using her, it’s gotta stop.”
Granted, that’s not the most articulate summary of Theology of the Body (see Christopher West or Fr. Mike for that), but it is what I was thinking. For the next year, Jacelyn and I began casually studying TOB. We attended a Christopher West weekend in St. Paul, MN, read Theology of the Body for Beginners, The Good News About Sex & Marriage, The Love That Satisfies, and listened to the 10-disc Naked Without Shame series. I’ll be honest, after only a year, I’d idiotically gotten to the point that I actually thought to myself, “I think I’ve figured this whole TOB thing out.” (Silly Nic. When will you learn?)
In May of 2008, I had the opportunity to attend the five-day Head and Heart Immersion Course taught by Mr. West just. I arrived thinking I was just there to get a workbook and re-learn what I’d already read and heard throughout the prior year. Again: silly Nic.
How can I sum up those days? I spent all of Monday realizing I knew nothing about TOB. I spent all of Tuesday weeping—yes, literally all and yes, literally, weeping—in the back row next to Jim from California. I spent all of Wednesday disbelieving that what JPII said could actually be true in my life. I spent all of Thursday literally giddy due to the fact that I’d realized that it could. (…and because I got to sing my favorite U2 song with Christopher West.) And I spent Friday reeling from a combination of the friendships made and the Truth received.
That was my story up until the course. However, it has been the “afterward” that has been the most intriguing. I was greatly changed by what I learned. Mr. West compared living the theology of the body to playing the piano. Now, I am experiencing the difference that exists between the thrill of finding out that you can one day be a concert pianist and actually beginning the practices, drills, repetition, and mistakes. Though the last year has been frustrating and very, very difficult, I think I’m beginning to feel a bit of the actual, deeper thrill you feel the first time you play through a difficult piece of music and it actually sounds reminiscent of Beethoven’s 9th and not the usual Purgatory: The Soundtrack.
I’m learning the difference between concept and content. Initially, I was excited by the concept of Theology of the Body, but it has been the beautiful challenge of transforming that concept into content that has made all the difference. I’m learning to breathe TOB throughout my life, instead of gasping occasionally for air. Slowly, I’m recognizing the hundreds of moments in my day when I can choose to look at others as subjects instead of objects. Make no mistake, I’ve fallen countless times since the course, but now I have a clear, spectacular and holy prize in my sights. For the first time in my life, I know my path—not simply for my career and the like, but for my humanity and my marriage. I know the beginnings of who I am. (And, apparently, I’m an amazing person, if extremely gangly and nasal.)
All joking aside, the Theology of the Body is more than simply the antidote to our society. It is more than the answer to our current trends. It speaks to the eternal in us, not the wayward, fickle or “trendy”; and that is the undeterable nature of what JPII is saying. TOB goes deeper than any wound that could be inflicted in any day or age or culture and, consequently, those factors cannot stop it. TOB shines the transforming light of redemption into our souls, exposing the fundamental good that had never left. It reaches beyond the dark stains of sin and reveals the inestimable grandeur that cannot and will never cease to breathe underneath. In a very real sense, it sidesteps the usual debates and chastisements about behavior and morality. Instead, it gives amplification to the Song of Songs that has been playing unceasingly in our hearts and that the entirety of humanity’s sin has not been able to silence. JPII put it best when he said it is an “adequate anthropology,” a fully sufficient explanation of why we are here.
In closing, I could try to say something very witty or deep, but it’d be better to leave you with the words of “the man” himself: John Paul II.
“Those who seek the fulfillment of their own human and Christian vocation in marriage are called first of all to make…this “theology of the body”…the content of their lives and behavior” (TOB 23:5).