The Tale of An Ice Skating INFJ

I love ice skating. The graceful sweep of a skater’s arms and legs as they glide along the ice. The crunching swish as ice flies up when they come to a stop. The romance of sweeping over a frozen lake with glittering stars overhead.

But I only liked skating from a distance. Figure skating is the only winter sport I ever follow or watch, even during the Olympics. I’ve even been to see the Smucker’s Stars On Ice Tour (just once — my grandmother had tickets. I loved it). I’ll watch YouTube videos of figure skating much the same way I watch Dancing With The Stars routines. And I didn’t try it myself.

This past Saturday evening, though, I actually strapped on skates went out on the ice. I spent the weekend visiting my boyfriend and when he learned I’d never actually been ice skating he pulled out his phone and found out when the rinks were open. Which is something I never really thought about trying. I haven’t even looked for local ice skating rinks or thought about signing up for lessons or tried to find out if friends with frozen ponds had skates I could borrow.

The Tale of An Ice Skating INFJ | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Benson Kua, CC BY-SA via Flickr

Many INFJs struggle with translating what’s in our heads into the outer world. We have a hard time turning our dreams into reality. And that’s only if we get to the point where we think about making them real at all. Often, we don’t get past the daydreaming phase before getting distracted by yet another idea that’s probably going to stay in our heads as well.

Another thing many (though not all) INFJs deal with is a lack of affinity for sports. Many of us don’t watch them and we certainly don’t play them. It requires far too much coordination and balance and teamwork.

But even though I don’t think of myself as balanced or coordinated, I’m on a dance team at church and I’ve even started teaching dance. I love it. And I’m pretty good at it. So there’s no reason those skills shouldn’t translate into similar activities like ice skating.

I wonder if perhaps we INFJs might be missing out on things we’d actually enjoy because we assume we won’t be good at it. Just because Extroverted Sensing is our weak spot doesn’t mean we can’t work on befriending that function and give ourselves a chance to enjoy physical activities.

Even though many INFJs struggle with outer-world activities, it’s good for us to actually try the things we’ve been daydreaming about. When I tried ice skating, I was sure I’d fall over before I even made it to the ice. But I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t fall at all. It turns out I like skating even though I was nervous and cautious and wobbly. It was so much fun. There were even moments (brief ones) where I felt like I was starting to figure out what I was doing and could just skate instead of thinking about how to stay upright. And I’m planing to try it again, hopefully fairly soon.

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Thoughts on the Physicality of Christianity

I was in Michigan over the weekend for Last Day of Unleavened Bread and the Sabbath, heard some thought-provoking messages, and had some interesting discussions. One of these messages (and related discussion) touched on the role physical actions play in our Christian walk.

By itself the message I heard  would have prompted many thoughts on the subject, but taken together with a book I’ve been reading it’s quite a chunk of spiritual meat to chew on. I’ll probably write more about this topic when I’m not functioning on ~5 hours sleep and a chocolate hangover, but those are my thoughts right now.

Blocking the Light?

In the message I’m referencing, the speaker talked about Passover symbols (foot washing, bread, and wine) and said “the physical acts are irrelevant” but we keep them because they’re good reminders. That wrinkled my eyebrows a bit, but I thought I’d keep an open mind and hang in there to see where this went.

It went to Colossians 2:16-17: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” He took this and defined shadow as the absence of light, and then called the holy days that we were gathered to keep “blocked light.” The next place he took the analogy was back to the Passover, asking, “Why would Jesus partake of a shadow that’s blocking the light?” The message then jumped to saying that since “He wouldn’t do something like that” the words must function on another level, as in Luke 22:18 referring to our communion with the kingdom of God inside us today rather than an actual event in the future.

“Shadows” by pwjamro, CC BY via Flickr

Obviously I’ve oversimplified his points, but you get the basics of what I want to cover. The crux of his message rested on the idea that “the physical acts are irrelevant.” That led to talking the implication that because holy days, sabbaths, etc. are described as “shadows” they may distract us from living in the Light. But the word for “shadow” in the Greek can mean two different things, much like it can in English. You have the physical absence of light in the sense of “darkness and gloom,” and you have the metaphorical sense. For the Greek word skia (G4639), that means a foreshadowing of a full and perfect image not yet seen clearly. You have to infer the meaning from context. And when the context is discussing Sabbaths that are a key part of God’s covenants and saying that they point to Christ, I have to go with the metaphorical meaning as most likely.

Embodied Liturgy

Then on the other side of the spectrum we have the book I’ve been reading called Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith (between this and Fill These Hearts, I’ve been reading a surprising amount of truly fascinating Catholic theological works lately). I haven’t yet finished this book and it’s a deeply academic text that defies easy summary. One of his main points, however, is that humans are primarily lovers (“I love, therefore I am” rather than “I think/believe, therefore I am) and that we require embodied liturgies to aim our desires in a correct direction.

“MercyMe” by Susan Lloyd, CC BY via Flickr

While my church does have many physical things we do as part of worshiping God (like resting on the Sabbath day, the Passover symbols, and water baptism) this particular view of physicality in worship was new to me. He seems to be prioritizing physical acts of worship over learning theology and understanding doctrines, which makes me uncomfortable, but the idea of doing what God tells us to just because He says so before we understand why does make sense. I also find the argument that we should engage with God on every level — including emotional — very compelling, especially in light of the many scriptures talking about the role of our hearts in our walk with God.

Balance

I’m thinking something between these views is probably closest to right. Yes, the physical isn’t the main point because it’s largely there to teach us more important spiritual lessons. Focusing too much on physical is one of the things that got the pharisees in trouble — you need to have a right relationship with God or it doesn’t matter how good you look on the outside or how closely you keep the letter of the law.

Still, the physical is vitally important. God created us as physical beings full of desires that He tells us to direct toward Him. If the physical didn’t matter, God wouldn’t spend so much time telling us what to do and what not to do. The state of our hearts is of paramount importance and we’re supposed to control our thoughts, but that results in physical actions. And if we’re in a right relationship with God, we’ll be walking in Jesus’s footsteps (including the physical things He did, like Passover) and keeping His commandments.

What about you? any thoughts on the role physical actions should (or shouldn’t) play in our Christian walk?

Does The Physical Matter?

People in the churches can’t seem to make up their minds about whether or not physical things are important. Here are a few examples that came to mind. They’re all specific to the church I grew up in, but I’m sure the basic idea can apply to other groups.

  • We say it’s better to have a printed Bible than just read off an electronic device because holding a physical book connects you to scripture more, but we think kissing a Torah scroll at a Messianic congregation is borderline idolatry.
  • We teach physical things from the Old Testament/Judaism like tassels on our garments and prayer shawls are done away with under the New Covenant, but heaven forbid a man stand up to speak without wearing a suit and tie.
  • We say it’s important to preach the gospel and do good works in the world, but many groups refuse to purchase or rent church buildings that we can put a sign out in front of, or to have any sort of physical presence in our communities.

What’s going on here? If the spiritual is all that matters, why do we hang on to certain physical aspects of faith? If the spiritual and physical both matter, which I believe is the case, why are we so contradictory in how we approach that truth?

What Are We?

Jesus told us, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). That tells us, at least on a basic level, what God is. But what are we?

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes 5:23)

In the Greek, the word translated “body” simply refers to our physical bodies, “soul” refers to the life-essence we have in common with animals, and “spirit” is the part of us that makes us human and which is able to communicate with God’s spirit.

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16)

Now, in this human life, we have a natural body that contains a spirit. After Christ’s return when we are resurrected or changed, we shall be like God and have a spiritual body with a spirit. We are “sown a natural body,” and “raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44).

The part of ourselves that is enduring is our spirits. When God “looks on the heart,” He is checking the state of our spirits. He is concerned most with the condition of the inner man. That does not, however, mean God doesn’t care about the part of us that’s physical.

Romans 7 Analysis

In Romans, Paul discusses how our spirits are related to keeping God’s law. He tells us that the law in the Old Testament was not enough by itself ot lead to eternal life. Rather, since everyone has sinned (Rom. 3:23) and the law gives knowledge of sin (Rom. 7:7), we end up dead as an indirect result of knowing the law.

But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. (Rom. 7:8-10)

Does The Physical Matter?  | marissabaker.wordpress.comIf we could keep the law perfectly, it would lead to life. But we can’t keep the law perfectly, and so we incur the death penalty for breaking God’s laws. That is how a law and commandment that is “holy and just and good” can result in our deaths (Rom. 7:12). That’s why we need Christ’s sacrifice to supply what was missing in the Old Covenant — a way for our sins to be removed and the penalty to be paid (Rom. 8:3-4).

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (Rom. 7:5-6)

Serving in the spirit doesn’t mean we ignore the law, though. Even when we’ve been cleansed by Jesus and our spirits are in communication with God’s Spirit, we are still human and still capable of sin. To be righteous in the spirit, we have to obey God by rejecting sin on both a spiritual and a physical level (Rom. 6:14-23).

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Rom. 7:14-17)

This isn’t Paul shirking responsibility for his actions. He’s telling us that, while his spirit recognizes and agrees with the law, his fleshly human nature is still slipping away from perfection. There’s a war going on between our spirits and our sinful desires.

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 7:22-8:2)

The only way we can win the war between our two natures is through Christ. His sacrifice removes our death penalty, His strength makes it possible for us to keep the law, and His grace covers us when we make mistakes. With His help, we can serve the law of God with our minds and spirits, and also keep the laws God gave us as a guide for how to behave as a physical being.

Some Concluding Thoughts

Does The Physical Matter?  | marissabaker.wordpress.comThe New Covenant doesn’t take away from the laws and commandments — it adds an additional spiritual dimension (Matt. 5:17-30). What we choose to do physically is not less important now. We could say it’s actually more important, because it is indicative of the state of our hearts. We are already in trouble if we intend to sin in our minds — actually going through with it adds the sin of hurting others on top of the damage sin does to us on the inside. We will be judged by how well we keep the law, and we must take this seriously (James 2:8-13).

I don’t think we can separate the physical and the spiritual, nor should we. It is true that God is chiefly concerned with the state of our inner man, but if the inside is right then it will show on the outside. We need to support our spiritual lives with our physical selves by actively doing good and keeping the commandments. As humans, we still have physical bodies and even inside us we have human nature struggling with God’s spirit. Keeping God’s laws is a physical reminder of how important the spiritual is.

In the churches of God that I’ve grown up in, we teach that one of the reasons God still expects us to keep His annual Holy Days and weekly Sabbath is because humans tend to forget things without something to physically remind them on a regular basis. This general idea is also related to my praise and worship series, since I think that if we take physical expressions of praise out of our church services we’re refusing to involve part of who we are in our woship of God. To keep on track with God, we need something to do as well as something to think about.