We've recently been looking at the paintings of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) and this week's picture study has been on this painting below, 'Fortitude.'
When we nourish something, we strengthen or fortify it. Fortitude is the steadiness of mind and soul that helps us to choose the right in the face of danger or opposition. It is the basis or source of genuine courage and enables us to have magnanimity in all conditions of life.
I wasn't convinced that the word 'balance' was the best word to describe this constant juggle of looking after and nourishing these different areas of my life (spirit, soul & body) until I read its proper verb-form definition:
The verb 'balance' means to:
Weigh reasons; to compare by estimating the relative force, importance or value of different things...
To regulate different powers, so as to keep them in a state of just proportion...
Weigh, compare, regulate, estimate, keep in proportion.
Balance requires constant adjustment (counterpoise) to keep its equilibrium or poise.
Nourishing my Body
I really like that word, counterpoise, probably because it comes from an Old French word and has a certain ring to it, but also because it reminded me of a book I read when I was on holidays, French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Giuliano. What I really liked about this book was the author's commonsense approach to eating. Nothing radical here. No special foods but practical precepts such as portion size, eating seasonal food, having regular meals, and not multi-tasking while you eat. But what really struck me was her chapter, 'Moving Like a French Woman.'
American women, at one extreme, seem to have two modes: sitting or spinning. French women, at the other, prefer the gentler, more regular varieties of all-day movement - "the slow burn."
We strive to diversify the physical movement in our lives and practise it as second nature.
The act of incorporating physical movement into our everyday lives is an act of counterpoise. We might not get the time to spend an hour at the gym or go out for a vigorous walk or jog, but we can make physical movement second nature. Just recently Dawn Duran addressed the progressively sedentary nature of our modern lives and the need for mothers to address this aspect of physical activity in this post.
Nourishing my Spirit
A very close friend and I were talking about a month ago. We only get to see each other every couple of months and as we had about a four hour talk over coffee, we decided we would focus on praying for some situations in each of our families. We each made a list on our phones and committed to praying for each person/situation every day and keep each other updated.
'Do not be anxious about ANYTHING.'
I know those verses in Philippians back to front but I often find myself mulling over things, getting anxious without even realising that that is what I am actually doing. Knowing my friend has committed to pray for those things that are distractingly buzzing away in the background has brought nourishment to my spirit.
The other thing I've been doing for a couple of months now, is setting the timer for 10 or 15 minutes, shutting myself in our library/music room/lounge room, and spending that time praying. It sounds mechanical, but I get distracted easily and this is a way I've found to keep myself in check. I walk around that room or sit in the rocking chair and keep my mind & heart focussed until the buzzer goes off.
Marriage requires fortitude, as does bringing up children and home educating, because they are spiritual battlegrounds. I've been reading 'The Meaning of Marriage' by Timothy Keller and it's been a refreshing book on the subject for me. I rarely read books on this topic (two exceptions were The Mystery of Marriage and G.K Chesterton) The 'How to Have a Happy Husband' or 'Have a New Husband in Five Days' type of books just make me want to puke but Keller's book is well worth reading.
If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage's divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision. Yet the trouble is not within the institution of marriage but within ourselves.
Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel - that can be safely assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to 'be' loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.
I loved what Keller says here about the difference between what he calls 'Consumer' and 'Covenant' relationships:
When Ulysses was traveling to the island of the Sirens, he knew that he would go mad when he heard the voices of the women on the rocks. He also learned that the insanity would be temporary, lasting until he could get out of earshot. He didn't want to do something while temporarily insane that would have permanent bad consequences. So he put wax in the ears of the sailors, tied himself to the mast, and told his men to keep him on course no matter what he yelled...
What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows. A public oath made to the world, keeps you "tied to the mast" until your mind clears and you begin to understand things better...by contrast, consumer relationships cannot possibly endure these inevitable tests of life, because neither party is "tied to the mast."
Nourishing my Soul
Nourishing my soul is probably the easiest thing out of the three for me to do.
Reading, good conversation, working with my hands to make create something lasting, looking at great art, listening to beautiful music and allowing nature give me a disposition of mind that I can get from no other source.
I was reading Genevieve Foster's 'Augustine Caesar's World' to Moozle yesterday and found this observation by the historian Livy when he was a young boy of why we need to study history.
...when Caesar had so boldly crossed the Rubicon River, when he had marched on Rome, and overthrown the government, he seemed no longer a great man, but a traitor to the Republic. Then, for the first time, the boy had realised how good and bad can be blended together in a single man, and in the story of a nation. That thought Livy was to put down in the introduction of his great history of the Roman people, which he was to write in future days.
"That is what makes the study of history so valuable," he was to say - "the fact that you can behold, displayed as on a monument, every kind of conduct; thence you may select for yourself and for your country that which you may imitate; thence note what is shameful in the undertaking and shameful in the result, which you may avoid..."
As a Christian, another aspect to consider is Community. I know there are seasons where this is difficult but going too long without community deprives us of nourishment. You need others and they need you, whether you realise it or not.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Updated to add my Commonplace entry: