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Physical Movement Is A Form of Self-Love

A lake is pictured with ripples of the water in the foreground and a reflection of the trees at the lake's opposite shore that compose the background. In the middle of the image is an African American woman in a bathing suit sitting atop a paddleboard holding a kayak paddle that is yellow on each end.

Photo credit: Marianna Cardozo (Lake Laura, Bayse, VA)

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

- Ephesians 4:15-16 (NRSV)

Believe Out Loud Fridaysis a new series of spiritual reflections – pieces that connect our identities and lived experiences with sacred texts and spiritual guidance. This week’s reflection focuses on physical exercise as a divinely aligned act of self-love.

Let’s try to reframe “exercise” as merely movement – a natural form of activity that the divine inner marrow of our physical body recognizes, even longs for. The Scripture above connects our understanding of the body of Christ as the Church, meaning a collection of physical bodies of believers for spiritual unity, with our individual physical body. In both cases,movement– the act of physically and spiritually generating energy for our individual bodies – is essential to growing our muscles (for strength & endurance) and stretching our ligaments (for connectivity) in healthy, nourishing ways. The last part of the verse affirms that any act toward that growth is not only an expression of love for our individual body, but furthers our collective growth as members in the movement for Christ in love.

Fall may be movinginto winter where you are. Get out and enjoy it! Use your body to facilitate joy. Reconnect with the youth and innocence within you that chose to honor an impulse of energy, not succumb to concerns of how you might look. 

Dance, play, move

Walk, skate, jog, 

Stretch, skip, trot, 

Race, hide & seek, chase, 

Swim, canoe, kayak, 

Bike, climb, hike,

Swing on a swing,

Roll in a pile of leaves

Walk on a forest trail. Observe a sunrise or sunset. Go for a walk and commit to taking pictures of everything that inspires you. Sit and review them when you finish. Note how viewing the pictures makes you feel. Perhaps it will connect you to a sense of wonder and awe at nature and the miracle of external creation, as well as your own wonderfully interlaced ecosystem of muscles and nerves, connected to bones and ligaments, creating organ systems that communicate with hormones and neuroreceptors, sending signals across synapses with the power of a shooting star. This magic happens within your body.

Movement and mindfulness set all of this free: self-love, growth and wonder. So let’s find joy in movement, and remember that with every single breath, movement leads to growth, building upon the love that God first gave you with God’s own breath into your very life. 

Kimberley Gordy (she/her) is a second-year seminary student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and an intern with Believe Out Loud and Intersections International. She loves reflecting by the water, laughing, dancing, Afro-futurism, and takes joy at manifestations of creativity showing up in unexpected places. 

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