Hi, I’m Shannon Baker (formerly Gianotti) and welcome to my blog! If you’d like to follow my posts via email, you can subscribe on the right.
Tangled up in “spirituality”
In addition to my love of writing and gelato, I thrive on to-do lists. So, considering that my dad was a pastor, it didn’t take me long to build a “spiritual” to-do list: read the Bible, pray, and avoid R-rated movies.
I knew that my check-list didn’t really impress God. He requires perfection and Jesus the only human who can give him that, since he was God too. Still, after years of toting my list around, I began to think that only “spiritual” things matter to God.
God could care less about everything else–everything like bowling and fettuccine alfredo. But, as long as I didn’t swear after throwing a gutter ball, as long as slurping noodles didn’t turn into gluttony, he’d tolerate bowling and eating at the Olive Garden.
But, it seemed to me that God didn’t really care about those things. Each time I laced up the red and blue shoes or wound more noodles around my fork, he was probably up in Heaven, drumming his fingers on the throne and wondering when I would get back to praying.
God cares about “physical” things, too?
Over the last couple years, God has challenged me on this. Sure, he stuffed the Bible with directions on how to live, but I’ve started to ask why. He keeps pulling me back to the book of Genesis for the answer.
After making everything, trees and stars, geckos and sperm whales, God made his masterpiece–two humans. Made for relationship. Wired, as one author puts it, to unfold and unfurl the world’s latent possibilities.
Adam and Eve found themselves in a world of senses. They woke up each morning with one task before them. Love. Hidden in every fuzzy leaf, crisp bite, and warm breeze was an invitation to love God and share life with him. It was a world without sin and a world without Bible or churches.
So if going to church on Sundays or reading their Bibles wasn’t an option for Adam and Eve, this leaves me wondering–what did God want from humans beginning?
Was he thrilled when Adam and Eve discovered that they could squash oranges and make juice? Did he smile when Eve found carrots hidden in the ground? When Adam bit into cilantro for the first time?
For Adam and Eve, discovering and developing the physical world must have pleased God. After all, he was the one who stuffed it with his goodness and gave them with the ability to taste it, to touch it, to see, hear and smell it.
But, one day, Adam and Eve decided they didn’t need God. They wanted to enjoy life without having to connect it back to him. So, they headed for the one tree that God had forbidden and, without God, they ate the fruit.
Without God, life fractured. Good and bad mixed together like the cans of paint spilled on the floor. So, Jesus came and paid for the damages with his own life. He showed us the way back to God–by believing that his death on the cross pays for our sin and makes a new life with God possible. Then, he gave us the Bible and the Church, reminders of who he is and the wholeness he’s bringing.
But, even if we trust in Jesus, the world we live in now is still fractured. And, so, we’ve gotten in the habit of using words like “spiritual” and “physical.” And some of us have focused so much on the “spiritual” things, we’ve forgotten that God has a plan for the “physical” things too. So, while telling people about Jesus, going to Bible study, and putting a check on the offering plate are part of loving God, they are just that–a part. God cares about “physical” things, too.
My spiritual rehab
I’m beginning to see that while God wants me to serve him, he also wants me to celebrate his involvement in the “physical” world. He wants me to celebrate the relationships he’s created. So, I’m learning to put down my theology textbook, FaceTime my four-year-old niece, and hear about Cinderella and Prince Charming. I’m learning that he wants me to revel in the gifts he embedded in this word–inspiring movies, kayaking, and the mind-blowing variety of flavors, from french onion soup to mint-chocolate-chip ice cream.
Celebrating the spectrum of what God values means taking time out my schedule and, often, “accomplishing” less. I find this challenging, because sometimes I tie my sense of significance to my check-list. But, I want to value what God values. I want to learn what it means to be fully human.
That’s why I’m blogging. I’m here to explore how God is redeeming all parts the of who we are—not just our spirits, but also our work, our relationships, and our engagement with culture and art.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey and that, together, we can become more fully human, more like Jesus.