TOB and the Freedom to Sip a Beer

The Theology of the Body let me order a beer.

After studying TOB for two years at the suggestion of my wonderful bride Katie, I recently found myself in Germany at a restaurant nursing a traveler’s thirst. Without thinking twice, I ordered a Radler (a lager mixed with lemonade).

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When I say that TOB let me order a beer, perhaps I need to clarify.

You see, the FIRST time I ordered a Radler in Germany was 6 years prior. I had been traveling to Baden-Wüttenburg extensively for business, and had fallen in love with both the local wheat beer and especially the nearby Bavarian brews. A local suggested the Radler as a change from the Hefeweizen and Pils I had been downing.

It. Was. Fantastic. About as refreshing a drink as you could imagine.

The SECOND time I ordered a Radler, I was in Germany again, this time accompanied by my team of U.S. folks. I was excited to share this heavenly beverage. However, as soon as I explained what the drink was, I received quite the ribbing for ordering a “girl drink” and became pretty self-conscious about it. I didn’t order any more Radlers over the trip, and for the next dozen or so trips to Germany my urge to appear “manly” squashed my thirst for the lemony-beery goodness.

My conception of what it was to be a man was (at that point anyway), if not 180 degrees away from the truth, at least 120 degrees off. I had allowed the culture, the media, and my peers to define for me what a man was, how a man acted, and how a man presented himself. I had allowed my identity to be found not in relation to God, but in relation to my buddies.

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I had allowed the culture, the media, and my peers to define for me what a man was, how a man acted, and how a man presented himself. I had allowed my identity to be found not in relation to God, but in relation to my buddies.

 

The Theology of the Body has shown me another way – an identity defined by God, a lifestyle based on who God intended a man to BE: A real man gives of himself and doesn’t take. A man sacrifices and doesn’t expect to be waited on. A man loves and doesn’t lust. A man is tender and doesn’t seek to harm. A man loves his bride and wants to help her get to heaven. A man yearns for God, not material things. A man prepares his heart for heaven, not his possessions for the future.

A man is not defined by having a Grizzly Adams-esque beard, a good golf swing, a sense of humor, a sharp wit, or fishing prowess…He is not defined by looking good in a suit, and certainly not by what he drinks.

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This new “TOB lens” through which I came to understand the Gospels has taught me that I am a child of God, specifically chosen to be male and to live in relation to my bride in a particularly self-donative way. I have learned to orient my relationships in this more authentic way and to stop worrying about my apparent manliness to others. The teachings of St. John Paul the Great realigned my expectations of myself, and fundamentally set me free to be a better me – a better Justin. These teachings allowed me to take up my identity not as the world would have it, but as God desires – free to live as my true self, and free to order that Radler.

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In addition to teaching me who I am as a man, TOB also showed me that all things that are true, good and beautiful—things like that Radler—point past themselves and can direct us to God (should we let them). In giving me a thirst for this beer, and giving me great satisfaction in it, God was telling me that there is an infinitely satisfying fountain of His mercy and grace beyond this beer. It was as if God reminded me : Whoever drinks this Radler will be thirsty again, but no one who drinks the water that I give will ever be thirsty again.

All things that are true, good and beautiful—things like that Radler—point past themselves and can direct us to God (should we let them).

TOB allowed me to see an image of my redemption in that beer. You see, the Radler is made of two parts: lemonade, normally understood as a child’s drink, and beer, an adult beverage. TOB let me understand that in this tasty mixture, God had given me (in one draught) a simultaneous icon of both my youth and my adulthood. In this drink God reminded me that He had redeemed the totality of my whole life—not just Past Justin, but Present Justin and Future Justin as well.

Moreover, there is an image of sanctification in the Radler. God gives us lemons, and we quite literally make lemonade. God gives us barley, hops, and water, and we make beer (as is commonly attributed to Saint Arnold of Metz: “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world”). The “delicious-ification” of God’s raw ingredients requires our hard work, just as our sanctification requires our participation & cooperation, even though the grace all comes from God.

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I would not have seen these icons nor understood their significance before studying TOB.

In yet another display of God’s goodness, it was unusual that the drink I had recently was made not with bottled juice, but with fresh squeezed lemonade. And it was made of not just “normal” beer, but from a fresh keg of Paulaner (tapped not even an hour prior to the pour). God didn’t merely give me a beer to drink, He gave me the best of the fruit of the earth, and with TOB I understood that in doing so, He wanted to show me a glimmer of His goodness and ask me to give my goodness back to Him as a gift.

Certainly, the Theology of the Body has transformed my life in more important ways than what happened at that restaurant in Germany – especially in regards to my relationship with my bride and children.

But on that day, TOB let me order a beer. And it was delicious.

 

JUSTIN SVEC resides in Noblesville, IN with his best friend Katie and their six children. He is a volunteer high school youth minister and teen bible study leader by night, and a mechanical engineer by day. He enjoys playing with his kids, holding hands with his wife, hiking, playing guitar, using the Oxford Comma, and being rather tall. He wants to pray, read, write, and ponder more than he does now.  

 

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