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It started with blinding pain in my abdomen—the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night and leaves you bent over, groaning, on the bathroom floor. 

It ended with—oh wait, it hasn’t ended. There has been no tidy conclusion, no ultimate resolution. It has been a journey with no end in sight. It has been a journey, I’ve come to realize, with no end at all. The journey itself is all there is. Read more

a picture of the author, Joy Williams, sitting, laughing, in front of a small body of water surrounded by grass and trees
a picture of the author, Joy Williams, sitting, laughing, in front of a small body of water surrounded by grass and trees

The author

I feel it. Slowly at first. Suddenly, my spirit bursts and I must stand. Within seconds, I am on my feet. I’m swaying, one arm on my heart and the other raised in the air, palms open. Something in me notices that I am the only one standing while I am in church.

“Am I supposed to stand? Is it against some rule that I should not?” I begin to think to myself. I’m not sure who is looking at me, if anyone, and I try to concentrate on what drew me to stand, which is the Great Spirit. God beckons all of me–not just my presence, my voice, my ears, my eyes, or my attention, but my body. God wants all of me to worship. When there are any scrutiny or judgments I feel, I remind myself of examples of dancers in the Bible.

David danced.

Miriam danced.

Sigh. The service is over. A few individuals come up to me and comment on how nice it was to see someone standing during worship. I have received comments, “Wow, you really know how to worship.” It makes me wonder what about the experience of others makes such a distinction between what they see of me, and what they feel inside. Why are the experiences described differently if they too are worshiping? Did they want to stand? If they did not stand what stopped them?

We are used to singing in church. We are used to using our voice to speak in church. We are used to sensing the “spirit” in our spiritual spaces, but, rarely, are we used to seeing our bodies as a necessary, and integral part of worship. Why?

We use our bodies to enter a worship space, but we tend to disconnect the body once inside, and only focus on the spirit. We go into a mode of sensing, feeling, and concentrating on all things internal. Focusing on all things internal is a good thing. Churches and other worship spaces are one of the only designated places that our social sphere focuses on the spirit, where the spirit can have a voice, have a body, have a presence and be intentionally tended to.

However, sometimes we focus so much on the spirit that we disregard the temple in which that spirit lives, the body. We may kneel, we may clasp our hands together in a prayer pose, we may stand to take of sacred elements, or we may raise our hand. All of these embodied practices are indications of what is happening on the inside.

We move our bodies because we have to fulfill a goal of the spirit, and we can only fulfill that goal if we move our bodies. For example, if I am sitting in the pew and the offering plate is at the front, I have to move my body or get someone to move theirs for my spirit to offer finances to the offering plate. Likewise, when I take of the sacred communion or Eucharist, I move my hand, my mouth, and any other body part to fulfill the goal of the spirit to remember the Last Supper that Christ instructed us to follow. Read more

On Saturday June 6th 2009, while turning to get something during our evening worship, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. It happened so quickly: Five steps and a pop. One E/R visit and one splint later, plus a phone call to a church member who’s also an orthopedic surgeon, and I was scheduled for surgery on the 9th.

So with one surgery, one ‘outpatient overnight’ and one ginormous cast, I was home for two weeks. No weight-bearing AT ALL, no driving (I injured my right leg), and so on. I did lots of reading, catching up on news, keeping up with email, and frankly, sleeping (especially as I weaned myself from pain meds. Sleep is a great avoidance tactic.). Then I went in for a second casting (working the foot toward normal/flat) on Wednesday the 24th.

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