We are thinking about our bodies these days. More than ever we're conscious of touch, cough and fever. Wearing a mask to shop is the new normal in America. I bought a pair of chemical safety gloves that go up to my elbows at the farm store the other day. It's part of my new shopping outfit.
Unless you are a professional athlete or really into fitness, we don't think about our bodies much. Once we get past about age 4, we expect our bodies to respond on command. When was the last time you thought seriously about putting your left foot in front of your right foot? Unless, of course, your body has been damaged. I've been in a physical therapy room when a person recovering from a stroke took his first step back, using intense concentration to force damaged neural pathways back into use. Cheers broke out that day.
Few of us ever think about breathing. After a brief outpatient procedure, I was told I would not be released from the hospital until I could make a little marker reach a certain level by blowing in a tube. Piece of cake, I thought. People are always telling me I'm full of hot air. I blew and blew until I was blue and kept falling short. Suddenly breathing became very important.
It's easy to forget your body is a gift. God gave you a body as part of your soul. You get to carry yourself around with your own personal transportation pod, energy plant and information processing system. When something happens to your body, it impacts your whole being. I read about a man who lost both legs in Iraq. His biggest challenge, he said, was not learning to walk with two prosthetic legs. Instead, his biggest challenge was finding out who he was now that he was missing two of his original parts.
I remember a conversation I was a part of with a pediatric ear, nose and throat physician. I was there as pastor, and he was speaking to a mom whose child was about to have surgery on her ears. The physician was explaining the procedure, pointing out the intricacies of the ear: the bones, the ear drum, the nerves. Then he paused and said, "I don't know what you believe, but when I look at the exquisite design of the ear, I can't believe it just happened. It had to be designed. Only God could design something so amazing." I wanted to shout: "Praise the Lord and pass the offering plate!"
Your body is designed by God. Nothing humans have constructed comes close to your body's ability to multifunction, learn, move and process. Think about it. Right now, with no conscious effort on your part, your lungs are converting oxygen to energy. Your stomach and intestines are converting carbs, proteins and fats into energy, storing up what is not needed for future use. You are the owner of a very impressive chemical plant compacted into about 1.76 cubic feet. If your personal chemical plant stops functioning, especially your lungs, get right with God because death is imminent.
How do you feel about God's gift to you? I know some of us would like to trade our bodies in for another model. You might pray: "God, please send me a new body. I would like one that lets me eat whatever I want but not gain weight. Give me one that doesn't require exercise to stay strong. How about some upgrades in the looks department? And God, would you please send my new body with a follicle upgrade? The follicles in this one failed early."
The truth is no one's body is perfect. We're born into a broken, sinful world, and some of that sin warped us from birth. Whatever struggles you have with your health, with your body, God offers you grace. He loves you not for your strength, not for your looks but because you are you.
When your body gets sick, it is good and right to ask God to heal you. It is also good and right to ask God what you need to learn from your illness. But it is also good and right to take care of the gift God has given you.
An old-time preacher was criticizing an older lady in his congregation for getting her hair done and wearing makeup. When he finished, the lady looked at the preacher and said, "Preacher, I think God wants me to do the best I can with what I have. I am trying my best. And frankly preacher," she said, as she poked him in his bulging stomach, "I think you need to try a little harder yourself."
Maybe one lesson from all we are going through is to try a little harder to take care of this amazing gift God has given each us, our bodies.
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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