December, I posted a reflection on how the incarnation—God’s becoming flesh in
Jesus—was a ground of assurance that we may trust the goodness and love of
God. God is, the incarnation makes
clear, like Jesus.
crucial truth of the incarnation is that God became flesh so that we may be
sure that bodies, our bodies and the bodies of all other people, matter to
God cares about bodies, God cares about food.
The simple fact that there is a table, a meal, at the heart of the
church’s worship means, at the very least, that God cares about tables and mealtimes—and
about who’s included and who’s left out when we gather.
about the condition of the soil from which food grows, about the dignity and
health of the farmers who grow it, about the fairness by which it is sold and
marketed, and about the equity and justice of its distribution. God cares about people who don’t have enough
food, which is why Jesus so often fed hungry people.
cares about people who struggle with food: people who have substituted it for
love and can’t get enough of it, even when they have eaten far too much, and God
cares for people who are obsessed with controlling how much food they eat
because they feel so out of control in other parts of their lives.
about the struggles we have with pain and disease. God is with us when we undergo cancer,
chemotherapy, and radiation treatments; mastectomies and reconstruction; hip
replacement, knee replacement, and physical therapy; high blood pressure and elevated
cholesterol counts; stents and bypasses; dialysis and kidney transplants,
leukemia and sickle cell anemia. God
cares about diabetes, depression, and dementia; about arthritis, osteoporosis,
and paralysis; and about asthma, emphysema, and COPD.
from immediate experience in Jesus that, when we haven’t slept enough, or eaten
well, or felt the affirmation of touch, it’s harder for us to love well, to
think clearly, and to feel truly. Everything
that touches our bodies matters to God: the quality and availability of air and
water, the decency and adequacy of shelter, and the conditions and wages of
God cares about our bodies, God smiles when we relax beside a warm fire on a
cold night, when strong and tender hands massage away the knotted tension of
stress from our shoulders, and when a welcoming embrace assures that we belong.
delights in the three-point shot that ties a game at the buzzer and sends it
into overtime, in the perfect spiral pass to the outstretched hands of a sprinting
split-end, and in the powerful strokes and swiftly gliding body of a swimmer in
the last leg of a 400 meter relay.
Remember the well-known words of Olympic runner Eric Liddell, “God made
me fast and, when I run, I feel his pleasure.”
flowing grace pleases God; so do the breath, hands, and mouths which make music
and the eyes and hands which fashion a painting or a sculpture.
love for us and for our bodies includes the good gift of sex which can have nearly
sacramental power for celebrating, expressing, deepening, and heightening the
intimacy which covenanted lovers share. Almost
unanimously, the church’s mystics tell us that to be lost in the joy of passion
is like being lost in God.
about all these things and more, because we don’t just have bodies; we are
bodies. However intellectual, emotional,
or spiritual an experience might be, it is also and always, a physical experience: it involves our
bodies’ skeletal, chemical, vascular, muscular, glandular, respiratory, neural,
electrical, and digestive systems. All
of our experiences fire across the synapses of our brains and register somewhere
in our bodies. Indeed, I think our
experiences are stored somewhere in our bodies.
Brown Taylor wrote that
. . God loves flesh and blood, no matter what kind of shape it is in. Whether you are sick or well, lovely or
irregular, there comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual
health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, “Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life
has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” After you have taken a good look around, you
may decide that there is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered. Bodies take real beatings. That they heal
from most things is an underrated miracle.
That they give birth is beyond reckoning (An Altar in the World, 38)
look in the mirror at your body, a gift from God to you, remember that the
resurrected Jesus stands beside you, bearing the evidence of his own wounds,
now healed: the nail prints are still in his hands; the scar in his side is
still visible. With him at our sides, we
talk as friends about the all the wounding and bruising experiences of our
lives. From him, we learn that wholeness does not mean unscarred. Wholeness, instead, includes the astonished
awareness that our scars are a physical record of God’s mercy on us in the
hardest seasons of life.