Monday, July 19, 2010

Murmurs from the Mundane: "Body: One Giant Leap for Humankind"

I’m what you might call accident-prone. Not a lot of people realise this, but it’s something I have to almost remind myself, or be reminded by myself, daily. For someone whose diet is not particularly balanced, I seem to have a lot more energy than would be expected. Normally this energy proves to be useful, but whenever I have so much that a bash my head on a door frame while skipping down our very short corridor, it can prove to be a bit hazardous.

I remember the first proper accident I had. There were times before this when I was genuinely sick, but those instances were out of my hands. I was over in my nana’s house, y’know, because that’s what you do when you’re 3 years old. I was in the kitchen, just standing about, not really do anything. My nana, Kathy, left me alone for some reason which I can’t remember. And if you don’t learn anything from this story, just remember not to leave a two year old in a kitchen alone…

Especially if there’s a freshly brewed pot of coffee just in reach of his hands. Also make sure he has something to protect his feet so that he doesn’t get second degree burns on his tiny little walkers.

I think, while being accident prone is something which is out of our hands, it goes against the whole concept that the Bible talks about, when it says;

“…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own…”

- 1 Corinthians 6:19

And while my clumsiness may just slightly infringe on that whole idea, it’s something we all tend to forget from time to time. Whether it is in terms of over-working our bodies, to our diet, even to items or objects which attach to this vessel, this body we’ve been given, while in no way perfect, is a temple of a part of the Triune God. Hopefully by the end of this chapter, through some stories and what not, we might just learn a thing or two about this thing we call a body.

I get scared very easily, probably because it’s the way God designed me. But there was one time when I was four which had me quivering in a boots, or some other sort of analogy, for a long time after. Getting up as a four year old wasn’t exactly what you’d call eventful; get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, watch some cartoons, and head off to school. There’s not a whole lot that can go wrong with that sort of routine.

That is of course if you can actually get up…which on one day would have happened, but would’ve required everyone that came within a 5 kilometre radius of me to wear ear plugs due to the absolute pain I was in, and consequently, the screams which bellowed from my tiny voice box.

To this day, I’m still not sure what was wrong with me. I couldn’t walk without being in physical pain, and from what I could gather, I contracted some sort of bacterial infection in my legs which acted a lot like arthritis. As you can imagine, for a four year old, it was terrifying. I mean, I had gotten sick before, but nothing on this sort of scale.

Anyway, after a week on some form of medication, and plenty of rest in the hospital, I was finally able to walk again without acquiring a sore throat in the process. And life went on as normal for me. But as I grew older, I kept getting cramps in my legs, particularly at night. My mum, who’s a nurse, said it was an after effect of that bacterial infection I had when I was a child, and that, from what she knew, I would experience this sort of thing for the rest of my life.

Here’s what I’m trying to get at; whatever you do to your body, there’s gonna be consequences. The whole thing of there’ll be repercussions for every action is still very true, but we seemed to have forgotten about this when it comes to our physical well-being. This ranges from good effects, to negative ones, such as my cramps. We rarely think about what will happen to us if we eat a certain way, exercise a certain amount, perform dangerous actions, or some not so dangerous. Proverbs 6:27 talks about consequences, and while it is mainly referencing to adultery, it may just be a helpful reminder for when we come to eat 20 Easter eggs all in one sitting as soon as that time rolls around…not that I’ve done that, of course…

“Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?”

- Proverbs 6:27

There’s another story to do with how I’ve treated my body over the past decade or so. I used to be quite an avid martial arts connoisseur. I’ll admit I wasn’t going to be able to take on Jackie Chan without seriously contracting a serious case of getting my back side handed to me, but I’d like to think I wasn’t bad bad.

Anyway, I practice a style of martial arts called Ninpo from when I was about 12 or so up until I was 14. The day of our practice came up, and it was time to perform some flying shoulder rolls. Normally when you do this sort of thing, it’s all very safe. And that’s what I thought that day as well. I ran, jumped, and rolled, but when I landed, something didn’t feel right, as if I had landed awkwardly. My shoulder wasn’t feeling its best, and at first I decided that that was enough…

This was before I decided to, against my common sense, have another go. And guess what? I landed awkwardly again. And you know what happened? I become the proud owner of a broken clavicle.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the tale, because the idea I want to submit to you is right there in the above paragraph. Against my own better judgement, I decided to push my body’s physical limit, and in the process, ended up with something that still pains me to this day.

Here’s the thing; we get so caught up in trying to keep our body in peak condition, or we try to just go that extra bit further when it comes to exercise that we normally end up hurting ourselves in some way. Put simply, sometimes we need to give our bodies a break.
Now I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t break past the limit of what we’re capable of. If we never did that, then we’d never know our breaking point. Nor am I saying not to go the extra mile. I’m purely talking about this in a physical aspect. We need to rest. I’ve been hurt physically enough in my life to understand that the body we’re given is pretty damn fragile. We can’t just go chucking it about for hours on end without taking a bit of respite.

One aspect of Matthew 11:28 that I think we tend to forget is the physical point;

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

- Matthew 11:28

When Jesus says this, we always assume that He’s talking in a solely spiritual sense, that if we’ve got troubles in our spiritual lives that He’ll give us respite from them. And while this is so very true, we often don’t look at the fact that, in conjunction with the numerous miracles of healing He performed, He’s faithful to give us physical rest as well. This is the God-Man who for most of his life probably worked a blue collar job with His earthly dad as a carpenter. So if anyone knows when its time to take a break from exercising, its Him.

In the summer of 2010, I was privileged to take part in a week long activity called “Urban Soul,” based in the capital, Dublin. Around 200 teens and young adults gathered to work in different community projects around the city centre and the outskirts too. The majority of my time there was spent gardening in some old folks’ homes based in the Liberties, an area of the city full of life, and in desperate need of development.

I have to say I’m not a huge fan of manual labour. That’s probably because of all the time I’ve spent on the couch watching some absolutely horrible shows on the television instead of getting outside and exercising. But when it comes to physical, I can be pretty lazy. So for me to garden for three days straight, it was a pretty big accomplishment.

But as I was wondering how I should end this section, a verse I had always thought about popped into my head;

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

- Romans 12:1

This is something I forget all the time. Not only are our bodies a temple for the Holy Spirit, but they are meant to be a sacrifice of love. The work we perform on a day to day basis is something more than a means of getting a wage at the end of the week. The work that we’ve been given (and I think we’ve even forgotten that we’ve been given work) is meant to be something more.

In light of this, Urban Soul was more about loving God then it was about fixing up a garden, or painting a classroom. With the bodies we’ve been graced with, we can love God, by offering them up as a sacrifice. This is, in one sense, what Jesus did on the cross, offering His broken body up as a sacrifice to His Father. We forget this so much of the time, and yet it’s right in front of us. And while God perhaps doesn’t call us to be nailed to a hunk of wood to be deemed worthy of a sacrifice, the work that we do everyday of our lives, if done in His power, is completely and fully “holy and acceptable to God,” as a sacrifice…

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