By Monica A. Coleman
“You think my body is your house!”
I sighed to my clingy infant daughter.
Bordering on toddlerhood, she was crawling, walk-stumbling, and doing it all from the home base of my lap, legs or arms.
Don’t get me wrong. I love holding my daughter. I love her embraces, her smiles, her finally-gentle tugs on my hair. But this morning, at six o’clock am, I wanted to indulge in the simple pleasures of being a discrete entity. Translation: I wanted to go to the bathroom alone.
But she yelped when I moved her to the bed; she hollered at the top of her lungs when I tried to pass her to my partner. She threw her arms around my neck, leaned her head in towards mine, and clung to my shoulders.
“Okay, okay. You come with me,” I said.
Her tears dried up, and I carried her with me, perching her on my knees as I lifted the toilet lid.
Turning towards me, she lifts my shirt, sticks her finger in my navel and giggles.
Through her footed one-piece pajamas, I poke my finger into her belly button.
“You have one too. This is how we were connected.”
The light bulb comes on. “Of course,” I say to her belly laughs, “you think my body is your house. It was.”
When I said that, I was referring to my daughter’s nine-month-plus incubation in my womb. Yet saying it aloud gave me a fresh understanding of a key metaphor in ecological theology.
Theologians Charles Hartshorne, Sallie McFague and Carol P. Christ all discuss how important it is to think of the earth as the body of God. Humanity and the rest of the created world can think of themselves as living on, or more aptly, within God’s body. Such thinking, they assert, can lead us to greater reverence of the earth. After all, if we care about God, we would care about God’s body and treating it well. We would take better care of our natural environment.
Through my daughter’s eyes, I see just how easy it is to take the body-house for granted. She knows no other place of living, and she climbs and jumps and pokes on my body with no consideration for how it makes me feel. Yet she also curls up, nurses and finds respite on my body. It both delights and exhausts me. Sometimes it hurts and frustrates me. And yet I’d have it no other way.
I see how humanity relates to our earth in similar way. With abandon, we draw on the earth’s resources, and yet so many of us find solace in nature and with the elements that derive from our planet.
My perspective is different as I wonder if God feels akin to me: Does God take joy in human activity? Do we also wear God out? Does God experience pain and frustration in the midst of God’s care for us? And more personally, how do I wish my daughter interacted with my body? Shouldn’t that affect how I interact with the earth? How can be I gentler towards the earth in the midst of my attachment to it? After all, it’s God’s body.
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