Namaste & Imago Dei

Namaste & Imago Dei

As a follower of Christ, I have spent much time in study and prayer over my yoga practice.  I have sought the counsel of my pastor, my elders, my accountability group, and my husband. I have not glazed over the controversy that surrounds Christians practicing yoga.  I have put my love of yoga on the altar of God for him to take from me if it did not bring him Glory.

Instead, what I have found is that God has given me innumerable opportunities to talk about the Love of God, which is Christ, from my yoga mat.  He has shown me that he is El Elyon, the most High God, and that he is in the business of revealing himself in this world (Genesis 14).  In fact, I have even found God’s truth woven throughout many of the teachings and the sacred texts of ancient yoga philosophy.

One such example is the greeting “Namaste” used frequently at the beginning and end of a yoga practice. In this gesture, hands are held in prayer position at the heart center, eyes are closed, and the head is bowed as a sign of mutual respect between teacher and student.  The Sanskrit word, Namaste, broken down into its roots means: Namah (bow) as (I) te (you). It literally means “I bow to you.”  and is also translated as ‘the divine Light in me honors the divine Light in you’.

Some Christians find this greeting to be controversial because, when taken literally, this might imply that we are bowing and worshipping each other as gods. It is not my intention to argue or talk others out of their personal convictions, however, I do want to share why I have found Namaste to be a beautiful and biblically sound practice which reflects the second most important command as described by Jesus.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him (Jesus) with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:35-40.

For me, Namaste is a reminder of several of God’s beautiful truths.

To begin, God is the Creator of all. Scripture says that humans were created Imago Dei, Latin for ‘in the image of God’. Each person we meet, whether they have accepted Jesus as their personal savior or not, is made in the image of God.  When I use the greeting Namaste in a general sense (to nonbelievers),  I am proclaiming God as our Creator and bowing to the beauty of his creation, his image reflected in each person I meet- believer and nonbeliever alike. Namaste calls me deep into the command to love others as I love myself. I do not bow to them as gods. I bow to them in deep respect for, and adoration of the One who created us all.  I bow because their Creator loves them and invites me to join him!

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

Furthermore, when greeting a follower of Christ, the word Namaste takes on yet a deeper meaning.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus has done the work to reconcile God and humankind. When we believe and trust that Jesus has restored our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, transforming our lives from the inside out. Believers then, both individually and corporately, become the dwelling place of God on the earth. When using the greeting Namaste with fellow believers, I am recognizing that the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. To be clear, I am not saying that we are gods; I am saying that God lives in us.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

Additionally, in the Gospel of John, the imagery of light and darkness is used to describe the birth of Jesus into this world. Christ is introduced as the “the true light, which gives light to everyone” born into the darkness of the world. When using the gesture Namaste in a Christian context, I am reminded that Jesus is the true Light and that his followers are meant to be a reflection of this light in a dark and hurting world.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

I am thrilled when I hear the truth of El Elyon, the most High God, being revealed throughout cultures, history, and time.  Our God is a big God! It is an honor for me to recognize that truth and to have the opportunity to introduce the person of Jesus into the story that God is already telling. I find this kind of truth being revealed in the Eastern greeting, Namaste.  My choice to use this gesture in my yoga classes is beautiful reminder to me that all of humans are made in the image of God, and we are meant to love each other as we love ourselves, as image bearers. At times, I use the greeting Namaste in humble gratitude, remembering that through faith in Christ, the Spirit of the Divine has chosen to live in his followers and to reflect His Light through us into the world.

The truth held in the greeting Namaste is a truth that contains the power to heal many of the great divisions in this world.  The power to unite people regardless of their cultural, racial, religious, social, political, or personal differences. In viewing ourselves, and each other, as smaller parts making up the whole of God’s great creation, we can come to realize that we need each other and perhaps develop a deep respect for each other in spite of our differences.

In closing, I pray that God would be glorified on earth as it is in heaven. Lord, help us to look for your image in each person we encounter, and enable us to live out the beauty and truth held in Namaste in light of Imago Dei.

 

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Love the Creator, Love His Creation…

Love the Creator, Love His Creation…

Today is Earth day, and I am passionate about God’s Creation.  As part of the Evangelical Church, I have been surprised, and saddened, at the lack of concern that fellow believers have for the environment. The Church, as God’s representatives on earth, should not be indifferent to the state of His Creation.  The Church, of all people, should care for God’s Creation, because we know that God is revealing himself through His Creation!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

What does the Bible say regarding Creation care?  In Genesis, God made the earth, He calls it “very good”, and then He gives humans “dominion” over Creation. (Genesis 1:28)

As God’s image bearers in Creation, we were intended to act as His representatives; to show the world what God is like. So when God gave humans dominion over the earth, we are meant to do that in a way that the character of God is reflected. This in no way means that we are to be indifferent or abuse nature, but instead, we are meant to be stewards of God’s Creation. Remember, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to tend it, and to care for it, not to exploit it.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15

So on Earth Day…who better to celebrate the goodness and beauty of God’s Earth than God’s children? We, as ambassadors of Christ to the watching world, should enjoy a day in which we celebrate the good gift of God’s creation. Christians can, and should, take the lead to educate ourselves, and others, in ways that we can be better stewards of the world that God entrusted to us.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Yahweh (Hebrew) transliterated as Jehovah- the existing One; to exist/ to be (past, present & future); to become known

Rophe/ Rapha (Hebrew)- to heal; to restore; to make healthful

Jehovah Rophe– The God who has healed, is in the process of healing, and will heal and restore to health (Exodus 15:26)

Many times we think of healing solely on the physical level, however,  Jehovah Rophe is the God that heals on all levels- mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally,  and environmentally, just to name a few.  Jehovah Rophe knows the specific healing that is needed much better than we could ever know ourselves.

Questions to “till the soil” of our hearts:

  • When you experience “dis-ease” what is your response to God? Praising or cursing? Pulling close or pushing away?
  • Do you believe Jehovah Rophe is your healer and restorer?
  • Do you trust Jehovah Rophe with your wounds? Will you allow God to comfort you?
  • Do you look to Jehovah Rophe for healing? Will you allow God to be involved in your healing process or do you insist on fixing it yourself?  (What we, as humans, use to fix our own pain, we will become addicted to.)

Prayer for Healing

Jehovah Rophe, You are the Lord that heals our wounds and restores our health, Holy is your name. We confess that we are quick to try to fix our own hurts and the hurts of others. We forget to look to you, the Ultimate Healer.  We have fallen short of your perfect ways, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have inflicted injury upon ourselves, upon others, and upon our land. Heal us, Jehovah Rophe, on all levels, that we may be agents of healing in a hurting world. Amen

Disclaimer: This blog post is not making a statement about the role of physicians, therapists, and medicine in the process of healing.  This post is meant to ask the greater question, “Where does our trust lie?” Do we trust more in ourselves, in others, or in Jehovah Rophe-the God who has healed, is in the process of healing,

 

 

 

I had a curious conversation last week following my Inner-Light yoga class. A lovely woman, with whom I have recently been getting acquainted, attended my scripture yoga class for the first time.  She came up to me, after class, to discuss some insights that she thought might be helpful for me as a teacher.  She shared with me that she teaches trainings on diversity and is a feminist.  According to her, it was “an obstacle” to hear Scripture that portrays God as male, specifically referring to God as “He” and as “Heavenly Father”.  She also shared with me that she felt that this class might be alienating people, namely Muslims or Jews (although I would also include others in this category, such as atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.).  Although I didn’t “enjoy” the conversation, (it was uncomfortable at times and sharpening for my mind) I was extremely grateful that this dear woman felt comfortable enough to come to me with these concerns.  We talked for the better part of an hour and sealed our time off in prayer- asking that our friendship would be strengthened out of mutual respect and TRUTH would be revealed.

This conversation came on the heels of reading a thought-provoking article in the September issue of the Yoga Journal.  In this article, Jacoby Ballard, the founder of Queer and Trans Yoga and workshops, (JacobyBallard.com) discusses the experience of attending yoga classes as a  “queer, transgender person”.  Jacoby explains, “Over and over again in yoga, the gender binary- classifying a person as either masculine or feminine, male or female- is reinforced, and every time, it’s painful.” Jacoby has developed a style of yoga that avoids gendered language.  He shares suggestions for making yoga classes more inclusive, such as taking the gender out of cueing during class and asking each person in the class their name as well as their preferred pronoun.  Pronoun preference is personal choice Ballard explains,  “Some trans people prefer to identify as the gender they have transitioned to, while others prefer more gender-neutral pronouns like ‘they’ or ‘xe,’ ‘xim,’ and ‘xir,’. (Yoga Journal, September 2016 p. 12)

When I read about Jacoby’s experience, I was mortified to think that I might have ever hurt someone, unknowingly, by referring to gender in my yoga classes (or outside of classes, for that matter!).  Likewise, it pained me to think that my student and new friend was hindered from drawing near to the presence of God in my class because I had referred to God as male and as our heavenly Father.

These are the things I know to be true according to Scripture (Bible):

  • God is a Spirit and does not possess human characteristics or limitations. (John 4:24)
  • Humans are made in the image of God, both male and female. (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • In Scripture, God reveals himself to mankind in male form. (Approximately 170 references to God as “Father” and both OT and NT used male nouns and pronouns when referring to God)
  • Jesus Christ came in the form of a human man to reconcile the world or “all flesh” back to the Creator. (Acts 1:3-7 & Matthew 28:18-20)

We can conclude, that while God is a spiritual being and not a man, God did choose to reveal himself to humanity through masculine form. This is illustrated throughout Scripture and also in the person of Jesus Christ.

As human beings, we are limited in our understanding of things beyond the physical realm. In Scripture, figurative language is often used to assign human characteristics, or behaviors, to God in order to help us understand who God is. The practice of assigning human characteristics to God, called anthropomorphism, helps to make it possible for humans to grasp the idea of an infinite God, who is a Spirit being.

Scripture reveals the nature and character of God to the reader through “language” that is familiar to the reader. So, while my friend is correct, God is not a male or female, the language of “God as Father” was meant to foster a better understanding of who God is to the reader; serving to help the created to understand the Creator.

This brings me to the subject of pronouns, and language in general. (Disclaimer: I am not a linguist.)

Language is a method and form of communication. Words are used in all languages as symbols, or tools, for communicating a deeper meaning. Words are meant to serve humankind by allowing them to convey thoughts and ideas with each other.

It seems to me that language, in the examples above, might be getting in the way… To further, the words being used to communicate a thought or idea to another person are actually hindering, rather than facilitating, the comprehension of that thought or idea.

In the setting of a classical yoga class, the instructor is in the leadership position of helping their students to move beyond daily distractions of the mind and body to encounter the Divine Presence within. (Of course, instructors may have different definitions of the Divine, but that is a conversation for another time…) Language is a tool to help instructors to convey the “thoughts and ideas” of the instructor to the class. In Jacoby’s experience, the language used in the yoga classes, which he attended, did not yield the desired outcome of drawing him into the safe, healing presence of the Divine. Somehow, language, more specifically pronouns, got in the way of the overall intention and idea being conveyed.

Last week, while teaching my Inner-Light yoga class, I quoted the following scripture:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:1-8 

The idea that I intended to convey to my class was a message of comfort; my intention, and I believe the intention of this Scripture, was to draw the listener into deeper intimacy with their Heavenly Creator. The language was but a tool, which I chose to use, to convey a deeper meaning. Unfortunately, the deeper meaning was lost for my friend, because the words did not serve their intended purpose. I believe this teaches us something worth noting.

In the situations above, the purpose of the language, and words, being used was to draw people’s hearts closer to each other and to the heart of their Heavenly Creator. It seems that the language, instead of working as a tool to facilitate the communication of one’s thoughts and ideas to another, was actually acting as an obstacle to that communication.

If we are not careful, we will become servants to language instead of allowing language to serve us.

While I agree, it is important that we speak with intention and to choose our words wisely; I think it is also important that we listen to the words being spoken and try to discern underlying meaning and ideas behind those words. If we allow ourselves to hold too tightly to the words being spoken, we may risk losing the deeper meaning those words were meant to communicate. The consequence being a division between hearts.

Where in our lives might we be hearing only words and not the deeper, underlying messages being conveyed?

 Paul refers to this deeper understanding in Ephesians when he prays, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”. In John 16, Jesus explains that it is the Holy Spirit that helps us to hear what is truly being spoken when he says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak”. Jesus teaches that there is a deeper hearing, or listening, than that of mere words.

In the spirit of humility and conviction, I will sign off from this post with the same words that Jesus so often ended his teachings. “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”