Hocus Focus: Lies I Told Myself and Why Christians CAN do Yoga
We went for a walk in the woods.
Our youngest turned 5 on Sunday.
He is a funny guy. Birthdays for my two youngest sons, both adopted, are always a little… backwards for me. I didn’t meet Charlie until he was three months old. The next two years of his life were a roller coaster of what-ifs and uncertainties. His birthday mystifies me. I wish I had known, but if I had known, his existence wouldn’t have become part of ours.
I try to focus on the now.
So, on Sunday morning we surprised young Charles with two (because he would not have enjoyed not sharing the experience with his brother, Sam) small hiking backpacks, pancakes, and a trip into the woods.
In the days before, I had collected all the things boys in the woods might need. Flashlights, mosquito repellant, compasses, “noculars,” butterfly nets, magnifying glasses, canteens, well, you get it.
Together with our oldest daughter, Maggie, and our two youngest “originals,” Luke and Sophie, my husband and I drove into the woods to go “sploring.”
When we climbed out of the car and onto the walking trail my mind was buzzing. I wrestled with my thoughts and I calculated how long we could wander in the forest before we’d need to head to my parents’ house for lunch. Then, I fretted that Justin was taking pictures and I am “chubby.” I made a mental note to remember to do sit-ups tonight, but I forgot about that until just now.
Next, I worried about Sam’s allergies. Then, I fidgeted with my phone to make sure my step counter was on. Finally, I was distracted by my camera, making sure to get plenty of pictures of this amazing day, one I used to worry would never come and… one I was only half participating in because… my brain goes a million miles a minute.
I can make some legit excuses for this.
Seriously, I even have a note from my doctor.
Early in my marriage, after years of academic struggle and failure, Justin encouraged me to get tested for learning disabilities. As it would turn out, I have ADHD, Dyslexia, Math/Numerical Comprehension Disorder, and an eye sensitivity to white with black print, i.e. books, legal documents, and paper with print on it, specifically.
What was the point?
I am, by all accounts, a disabled thinker.
However, I take none of this in to account, anymore.
As Charlie bolted ahead of us on the trail, his “pack-pack” jostling, my motherly instincts rallied. I knew exactly what he was up to. You see, the compass I bought for him had a whistle on it. The whistle, we explained to him, was for emergencies only.
Justin had put the compass/whistle in a secret pocket, one we assured him would one day hold a Swiss Army knife, perfectly. “Now, this is for finding your way in the forest. If for some reason you got lost, you could use the compass to find your direction and the whistle to alert people to where you are,” Justin explained.
Charlie heard, “If you get lost you can blow this whistle like a banshee.”
Obviously, Charlie was bent on getting lost in the forest and blowing that whistle.
Barely on his heels, I followed him.
And that is when it happened. In this distance, I heard the muffled laughs of my family. Ahead of me, I heard the clatter of Charlie’s bag and his hefty trot. But all around me, most assuredly in my disabled brain, I heard… nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. I could have quickly mustered up plenty of distractions. But instead, I walked a little faster. The voices faded. With long strides, I was catching up to Charlie, so I fell back, just enough.
The trees rustled.
A woodpecker tapped away on some huge pine trunk.
I took a deep breath and stopped.
The scent of pine assaulted me, and I took another deep breath.
Without looking up, down, before, or behind me I collected my mind and inhaled the present.
Fully cognizant of the day, I began to whisper thanks.
“Thank you for letting me mother this boy. Jesus, thank you for this day. Adonai, thank you… thank you… thank you.”
The more I applauded my God and the gratitude bubbling up inside of me, the clearer my mind became.
I won’t lie, I was tempted to pull out my phone and write down 4 new book ideas and start on this post. However, I rejected the busy-ness and claimed clarity, in Jesus name.
Here is the jab, for years, actually my entire existence I have embraced two HUGE lies; 1. I am disabled and need “fixed,” so I can be some kind of spiritual wizard and then Jesus will love me. 2. Modern and ancient methods of concentration, (meditating, breathing exercises, yoga, herbs, oils, or Ritalin) separate me from God.
I left my phone in my pocket and boldly, yes out loud, professed, “I will not forget this truth and I will write it on Monday, and share this Good News with anyone willing to read it.”
I didn’t forget.
This day I am writing to tell you two things; 1. I am a new creation in Christ. The old has gone and the new has come. Jesus loves me, right where I am. He created me and He knew full well, I would have to swim upstream in the ways of concentration. Still, He is for me and with me. With Him, all things are possible. 2. NOTHING can separate me from this Jesus.
This truth was a long walk on a confusing trail.
About 7 years ago I was sitting in a doctor’s office in complete agony. The doctor entered the room and explained to me that my lower back was completely out of whack. That wasn’t the technical explanation. He encouraged me to try gentle yoga.
I all but gasped.
YOGA!?!?! But if I do yoga, I might accidentally beckon the devil or Buddha! And then… my house would burn to the ground and I would have to live in a cardboard box!!?!
While I didn’t say this, the doctor saw the look on my face and said, “Look, I am not asking you to join a cult or manifest the dead. But you cannot keep training and running in your state. Go to the Y, two, maybe three times a week. You need to strengthen your core and align your spine. Talk to Jesus while you do it, whatever, I am telling you, in three weeks, this will be resolved.”
The first class was physically painful. And spiritually, well, it wasn’t anything. Well, until the end of class when the instructor said, “Namaste” and I was sure that I had just prayed to Beelzebub.
I rushed to my car and Googled “namaste.”
“The Sanskrit phrase namaste is formed from namaḥ, meaning “bow, obeisance, adoration,” and the enclitic pronoun te, meaning “to you.” The noun namaḥ, in turn, is a derivative of the verb namati, which means “(she or he) bends, bows.”
So, I went to confession, because… well, I don’t know.
Two days later, I went back to yoga… and then back to confession.
Five days later, I went back to yoga… and then back to confession.
Ten days later I did the same, fully healed of my back problems, destined for “hell.”
This time the priest said, “Not that I am not always glad to see you Jami, but what is that you think is going to happen to your relationship with Jesus if you go to yoga?”
“Uh, well… I don’t know?”
And then he said something that stuck with me, but I didn’t understand fully until I understood Grace.
“Jami, if your back is healed and you enjoy yoga and you love Jesus, I’m not sure I see the problem. And you do know, nothing can separate you from the love of God, right?”
Well, I mean.. I kind of knew that. But no, no I didn’t.
Which brings me back to the forest.
I know now.
The only thing that really separates me from God is the law.
Don’t do that! Do this! You must! No! You can’t!
Yes, I can. There are things for me and things that are not for me. My sun salutations are worship and clarity for the God who died for me. One moment I am of shallow breath and my brain is on overload. The next, I am in the forest, adoring a boy I did not lose, focused on a good and loving Creator who manifested woodpeckers, spider webs, and morning dew.
I am not lost, disabled, or separated from Him.This time the priest said, “Not that I am not always glad to see you Jami, but what is that you think is going to happen to your relationship with Jesus if you go to yoga?” Click To Tweet
He is my focus when I am unclear.
The letters in red are most obvious.
He will never leave me or forsake me, for I am fully aware, I am His.
Here with Him, His presence is my present.
This God knew exactly what He was doing.
(Good grief…stay focused! Of course, we let Charlie blow the whistle!)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
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