In today’s episode, we’ll conclude our discussion on vulnerability by taking a look at the physical or embodied part of it. We’ll explore how kneeling, dancing, crying, and physical touch are all examples of embodied vulnerability. Of course, we’ll also give examples from our own lives relating to these topics.
011: The Rhythm of Marriage—Vulnerability, Part 03
Truly Equal is a marriage podcast created by Kyle and Christi Playford. Our goal is to talk about marriage from a fresh perspective. We tell stories about our lives, talk about how marriage is like a love song, and give practical solutions to the problems we've encountered.
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Currently we're going through our "Marriage as a Love Song" series. As we've mentioned before, there are three components to this series: rhythm, timbre, and melody. Today we're concluding our final episode of the rhythm section which has consisted of the following topics: love, commitment, and vulnerability. We've recently been discussing the three parts of vulnerability—spiritual, emotional, and physical/embodied—and today we're taking an in-depth look at the embodied part of it. We'll talk about a variety of examples of embodied vulnerability including: kneeling, dancing, crying, and physical touch/intimacy. As a reminder, vulnerability is a space where either great pain or great healing can occur, and our definition of embodied vulnerability is as follows: Expressing your feelings through your body. Now that you know where we came from and where we're heading, let's continue with a few examples.
Kneeling as Embodied Vulnerability
Kneeling is a part of many different religions, and is considered a reverential, submissive, or vulnerable posture. When someone kneels, it is very difficult to defend themselves against an attack. If their opponent applies consistent pressure to their forehead, there is no way for them to stand. In the church culture Kyle and I grew up in we would sit for the sermon and stand for the songs, but there wouldn't be a time of kneeling. However, at the new church we're going to there is a set-aside time of kneeling during confession. This is a time when the whole church body confesses they have sinned in what they have done and left undone. Directly after this, while everyone is still kneeling, the priest proclaims God's forgiveness over everyone. This time of kneeling has helped Kyle enter into a reverential and sacred space. Through it he is able to better experience submitting to God and recognizing that he is not perfect. And then at the same time accept God's forgiveness. Kneeling provided a different experience than simply sitting or standing did.
Growing up, many of my friends went to a non-denominational (more Pentecostal) church. Eventually I started going to their Sunday evening services with them. During worship at this church, everyone was free to sit, stand, kneel, or dance before God. As first I felt uncomfortable (especially with the dancing) so I just observed everyone. I wanted to be free enough to kneel or dance, but I felt like people would judge me (primarily because I judged other people). But after a while I became more comfortable with everything, and I was able to experience kneeling and dancing before God. Both felt vulnerable in their own way, and because people didn't judge me I was able to experience healing and a closeness to God through this embodied vulnerability.
Dancing as Embodied Vulnerability
All cultures at all times have expressed themselves through dancing. I've enjoyed dancing my entire life, and I think I naturally embody my emotions in dancing. Generally I view free-style dancing as more vulnerable than choreographed dancing. Kyle, on the other hand, views choreographed dancing as very vulnerable because he infuses his movements with emotions he's previously felt. During high school, Kyle was part of a show choir (think Glee). Dancing enabled him to embody his feelings and learn how to express them better. However, in a more conservative Christian sub-culture, men who enjoy dancing as a way of expressing their emotions can be often be looked down upon. This embodied vulnerability can therefore either lead to great healing or great pain.
Crying as Embodied Vulnerability
Crying is vulnerable because people can either respond well (and make you feel better), or they can respond poorly (and make you feel worse). Last week Kyle and I were part of a Bible study, and we were talking about women in relation to Christianity. Growing up I was taught that women must have a man as an authority over them (whether that's a father or a husband). Now, however, Kyle and I are attending an Episcopal church that doesn't hold these views. I explained in our Bible study that because of this dramatic shift I often find myself searching for an extra human authority over me. I often feel like I can't approach God by myself. I have to constantly remind myself that my voice also matters. So as we were discussing these things, I started crying. I cried because now I believe that I do have a voice, and that's so beautiful and exhilarating. But I also cried because I feel like having a voice is scary and overwhelming. As I cried, everyone came around me and comforted me and encouraged me in these difficulties I'm facing. It was a special and vulnerable moment, and healing came out of it.
Crying is vulnerable because it shows that you're not always in control. Usually I cry when I'm overwhelmed or sad, but Kyle cries more when he's happy. For example, when the priest pronounces God's forgiveness of our sins or when Kyle is overwhelmed by the love of God, he always feels like crying. One time for his birthday, I hand-lettered a line from the song, "The Color Green," by Rich Mullins. When Kyle opened the gift, he cried because he loves those lyrics so much.
Physical Touch and Intimacy as Embodied Vulnerability
This probably wouldn't be a marriage podcast if we didn't talk about physical touch and intimacy. ;) The reason we combined these together is that they're trying to get at the same thing. An example of physical touch could be resting your hand on someone's shoulder to let them know you're there for them, or giving someone a hug. It's a way of a saying a lot without any words. Intimacy encompasses many things. It could be cuddling with someone, or simply being physically close to another person. It's an action that brings a feeling of closeness. Also, sexual intercourse itself is one of the most intimate and vulnerable things that a person can experience. However, we think that both the church and the culture have portrayed false information about sex—how it's supposed to work, and not supposed to work (both within marriage and outside a marriage). People have been hurt and scarred by these false expectations of how sex should or shouldn't be. Oftentimes churches don't know the hurt they've caused. This could be because there's a stigma in the church surrounding sex, or because the church doesn't think it's their fault when perhaps it is. The hurt and pain the church has caused is especially evident in the purity culture of the 1990's.
Growing up in the church during the purity culture of the '90s, there was an expectation put on females that they must keep their brothers in Christ (all Christian men) from stumbling. Specifically this meant they must keep their brothers in Christ from lusting after them. To protect their brothers in Christ, women had to wear clothes that were modest so that no one would look at them in a sexual way. If anyone did look at a woman in a sexual way, then it was her fault for not dressing modestly enough. That teaching was very damaging for me. What happened as a result is that a I learned to separate myself from my sexuality. I learned to separate my sexuality from the rest of who I am, and eventually I stopped seeing myself as a sexual being. This is because the underlying teaching is basically that being a sexual being is wrong. It was always the my fault if a man lusted after me. That belief got really ingrained in me, and then I struggled to know how being sexual could be a good thing. We're not going to go into a lot of detail on this episode, but we might produce a future episode on how this has influenced our marriage. If you have any questions, we're open to being more vulnerable and would love to hear from you.
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