For laundry and thighs and dishes and dust, may we give thanks
WRITTEN BY: CHRISTINA CROOK
For two years I lived in my head. I am a writer and writing is talking to yourself, after all.
Two years ago I took on a book with three little kids in tow. It was a rare opportunity that found me out and one I believe was God's calling. But a book is a long project and an even longer time to dwell in your head.
Though I’ve always been a writer, I’ve never been a head dweller. I've always felt most at home in my body. An athlete in high school and university. A people person. A paper person.
Tangible. Touch. True.
But in my head I went, and the journey, well, it hasn't been great. I tire in my head. I grow weary. I grow weird. I wonder if we all do. We have skin on, after all. So, I am making a concerted effort to get back into my body.
I worked out this morning. Sweating buckets. Leg presses. Saying hello to these old friends.
There are a few things in my life I am immeasurably proud of. One is the time I spent on my university rowing team.
I remember perusing club tables in the quad, being drawn to a group of tall, boisterous girls and guys standing around the rowing club table. I took some information and stuffed it in my backpack. I liked the pictures of water, of the sleek aluminum boats slicing through the ocean at dawn. I graduated high school with the title of “female athlete of the year,” having played five sports: basketball, soccer, volleyball, floor hockey and soccer. My friend Marieke and I had even made a surprisingly dominant force on the badminton court. As I read the rowing brochure, the competitor in me tingled with the thrill of taking on a new sport.
And then came the day of tryouts.
I knew no one on the team. I’d never been down to the boathouse. Everyone will probably be better than me, I thought. Maybe I’ll make a fool of myself. Maybe I shouldn’t go.
Reluctantly, I pulled on a pair of turquoise shorts and a long-sleeved cotton top and, at the last possible moment, sped off in my parents’ maroon minivan. I’ll just go and scope things out, I thought. I can always bail at the last minute.
I ambled up to the rowing compound where I could see a group forming around a strange-looking machine. An ergometer, I would later learn. People were taking turns pulling on it and I thought I could pull better than the last girl. So, I saddled up.
I was strong, tall, and lightweight. Something like striking gold in that particular sport.
So I joined and started off as everyone does: bleary-eyed and frozen at 5:00 AM, one mere meter from the dock working on bobbing the oars up and down in the water: balance exercises. Not quite the thrill of shooting a shell through ocean water that I’d imagined. But, slowly, our team managed to balance the boat, then we took some strokes, then we took longer ones, faster.
Within months, we were clicking along watching the sunrise over the mountains. And before I knew it, our coach tried me out in the stroke seat—the lead rower in the boat. Month after month we trained five days a week, two hours on the water and two hours off. By the end of the season, we were killing it.
The work was beautiful. We were sleek, powerful, strong. I was an integral part of a team. There were eight seats and one coxswain. If one person neglected to show up to practice, the entire crew was benched. The sense of accomplishment was that much sweeter because it was shared.
Everything about our modern-day technologies, from the apps on our phone, to the gadgets in our cars, are centered on ease; but making things easier doesn’t lead to a deep sense of satisfaction. Patience, discipline and hard work do.
I look back on the days I rowed in university with pride because waking up at 4:30 AM and pushing my body to the brink of exhaustion day after day took discipline.
I consider birthing my three children without the help of drugs or intervention a monumental achievement because it took Herculean work and extreme trust.
The things we are most proud require all of us. And once the ache, blood and tears are washed away, we are left with the solidity of our achievement.
“And here, for me,” writes beloved Canadian theologian, Jean Vanier, “is another profound truth: understanding, as well as truth, comes not only from the intellect but also from the body.”
“When we begin to listen to our bodies, we begin to listen to reality through our own experience; we begin to trust our intuition, our hearts . . . Truth flows from the earth. This is not to deny the fact that truth flows from teachers, from books, from tradition, from our ancestors, from religious faith. But the two must come together. Truth from the sky must be confirmed and strengthened in the truth from the earth.”
We are embodied beings made by a holy God.
Today, for laundry and thighs and dishes and dust, may we give thanks.
Christina Crook is a mother, TEDx speaker and author of the 2015 book, The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. She appears regularly on national radio and TV programs discussing what it means to be human in an increasingly digital world.