To husband ourselves

“We are all body, mind, and spirit, and we need to husband ourselves on those levels.”

Barbara Braver shared this thought at a writing retreat I attended last week as part of Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle Conference.

(Braver is a poet and writer who for several years shared Madeleine’s Upper West Side apartment during the week as she did work for the Episcopal Church in New York City.)

I paused for a moment when she said this because I’d never heard the word husband used in that context before—as a verb, rather than a noun. My pen hovered over the page as I transcribed the sentence into my notebook…

“Maybe I misheard her,” I thought. “Did she say tend instead?”

But no. She said “husband.”

So, like any good student, I wrote down what I heard and looked it up later when I got home.

According to Merriam-Webster, husband means, of course, a male partner in a marriage. But as a verb, it means “to manage prudently and economically.”

To continue down the definition rabbit hole, prudently means “marked by wisdom” and economically suggests care and efficiency. Even further down the hole, efficiency points to something that produces the “desired effects.”

So, to rephrase Braver…

“We are all body, mind, and spirit, and we need to wisely manage ourselves with care on those levels to produce the desired effect.”

That sucks the poetry right out of Braver’s original statement, but staring at that dissected sentence hits me with a wallop.

My body, my mind, my spirt all need managing—a managing born from wisdom and care with the aim of helping each of those elements produce the desired effect, helping them do what they are supposed to do.

What they are Designed to do.

To neglect one of those levels is to neglect part of my Design.

I’m glad I didn’t convince myself she said tend.

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