Sunday, January 11, 2009

Real Bodies, Real Saints

I started reading a book about the life of Mother Theresa, switched to reading Robin McGraw's latest book, What's Age Got to Do with it?, finished it, and am now back to reading about Mother Theresa. Some might think I am in two different worlds with these two books.

Both are famous women. One woman was viewed as a dear saint, a Rescuer to many dying on the streets of Calcutta, a woman who had taken a vow of poverty, who had given her life to serve Jesus and see Jesus in everyone. Then there's Robin McGraw, wife of Dr. Phil, living a fairly opulent lifestyle in California, famous not for serving the dying but the living, writing not about the secret, internal life but about the physical life, and how to care for the body.

Do these two women have anything at all in common?
Can you even compare the two? Dare you compare the two?

I do. I do dare. I found it rather refreshing reading both books simultaneously. I've always loved Mother Theresa and had a special regard for her, as does the world- but more so because of a talk I heard her give once (televised), right at the time when I was hospitalized with a potential miscarriage. She spoke about life, about saving life- and I was fighting for my baby's life. (Abby survived and is here today to remind me of God's miraculous, intervening hand).

But I've never revered Mother Theresa to the point that I thought this woman had the corner on the market on spirituality and piety and righteousness. She had a calling to the poor. She had a mission she was on. She had her days of light and her nights of darkness.

Robin McGraw has a a calling too- and while her calling (as the wife of a celebrity and famous Advice Giver) may seem less... less noble- it's the One who calls us to something that decidedly ennobles our work. Robin is using her platform to speak out on issues she cares about, and this one issue of taking care of your self is especially close to her heart.

I wasn't particularly interested in the development of subject of the book- but that's because I don't have many questions in the area of what anti-aging cream to use, what hair color helps me look younger (anything but gray is my answer!), how to redefine the arch of my eyebrows, etc. (Look at the almost non-existent arch of my eyebrows and you'll see I don't care!).

I was hoping, based on the title of the book, that the book would dig deeper into issues we face when we age: fear over the future, diminished self-respect for our aging, wrinkled bodies, confusion about our role or our place in loved one's lives. The book didn't go there. When it was listed under the subject heading of "Practical Living", they meant practical- as in physical and "hands on".

I won't poo-pooh her advice, though, or the context from which she wrote this book. Her mission statement seems to be about the grace and the power we authorize our self with when we are taking care of our physical body. It could be that this is the flip side of Mother Theresa's focal point- where the eye is completely on the need of the person before you, their plight, their physical needs.

Taking care of the body (your health and habits) is as crucial as taking care of your soul- but for different reasons. For me, manicures, facials, and eyebrow waxes still don't come high on my list- nor will they ever, I'm guessing. (Although I have a strong viewpoint that massages are more essential to peace and harmonious well being and everyone should try to get at least one massage in their lifetime!)

But I really should take some vitamins, and I do need to build strength and keep my bones strong. I need to be a role model for my daughter on how to live and love and serve others, yet not neglect taking care of myself as well. So I did get a bit of something out of the book.

But more than that, it was good to read two different kinds of books at the same time and remember that as saintly as we want to be, we are still human and we can't forget that, musn't forget that. We can have a deep inner spiritual life- but we have a physical life too. That's simple, plain truth for real people on a spiritual quest.

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