Walking our dog after the rain had swept through I noticed, caught in the shrubs along the drainage ditch plastic shopping bags caught in their branches. Looking more closely I realized that most of them had been there for some time, dirty, tattered, deteriorating from sun, mud, wind and rain. They have no value.
Later in the day after paying for my purchase the sales clerk placed in another plastic bag not unlike those along the ditch back. That bag placed on the seat of my car continued to serve a purpose. That bag contained something important and was needed until the contents were safely home.
With a new year has come the ever renewed resolution to take better care of our bodies. In some ways our bodies are like those plastic bags. Their real value is not in the bag but in what they contain. Our bodies are NOT us. Our bodies DO serve the purpose of containing “us”, holding us, keeping us alive in this world and able to do what we were put here to do.
Sooner or later, these bodies fulfill their responsibility and are set aside. We call this death, passing away, or just “passing”. We may spend a moment looking at them but then they begin the same journey as those abandoned bags along the bank.
Resolutions to work on our bodies are important. But infinitely more important is the care of our souls, the contents of “the bag”. Feed the body. Feed the soul.
I didn’t exactly lose it. I just loss some use of it due to an injury.
Eighteen. That was the number of times I was allowed to have physical therapy. Very quickly I learned that getting my leg back, or rather the use of it, depended on how well I listened to and followed the direction of the physical therapists at Betsy Johnson Hospital. Now the physical therapy department there is very, very good, but they can’t perform miracles. They can understand the problem, diagnose the best solution and direct my exercise. From there, the rest is up to me and how well I follow their direction. If I don’t ‘get my leg back’, I can’t blame anyone but myself.
I think everyone wants to live forever. I know I do. I have spent the last 41 years of my life studying the Scriptures for I find in them the same kind of direction to find a relationship with God and to grow in that relationship which I find in the physical therapists’ direction for ‘getting my leg back’.
Week after week men and women of God the world over seek to help those whom God sends them ‘get their life back’ or find their life, their true life. That Life is full, rich and satisfying and is just what God wishes for us. It is not illusive but easy to find.
In the four weeks after my injury before I began physical therapy I tried to discover the best way to help me ‘get my leg back’. After beginning work with trained physical therapists I learned that some things I was doing were helping and some things were hurting my progress. So now I have listened and I have changed. Now I am getting better day by day.
Like the men and women of God the world over I wish people would listen to spiritual direction from those of us whom God has commissioned, trained and sent into the world to help that world. I wish the world could understand that just as my failure to listen to and follow the directions of the therapists means that I likely would not heal, failure to listen to and follow direction in how to find and maintain a healthy relationship with the living God will result in a far worse outcome than just ‘losing your leg’.
If you know you are far away from God’s grace and love you do not have to stay that way. There are those sent by God to help you find Him and find Life in Him. Seek them out. If you will listen and follow Godly direction you will find Life.
Having returned from spending an entire day painting our rental apartment, I awoke this morning feeling tired and sore in places that I had forgotten existed. As I struggled with the fact that I would indeed have to get up out of bed, I thought of a thousand excuses to just stay put. It would have been so much easier to have just hired someone to do this work. I could have then avoided the after effects I was now experiencing! It occurs to me that most of modern life, in fact, consists of conveniences designed to minimize such physical work. As a result, we are increasingly a society growing flabby and weak in both body and soul.
Physical exhaustion now and then either from overworking or perhaps from a period of illness or incapacitation, can sometimes serve as a reminder to us that we are not superhuman. That we have limitations. That our bodies are aging. That most of the time our faith in our own strength is really just an illusion. The truth of the matter is that one unfortunate accident or illness can side line us indefinitely. However, most of the time we live as if we are indestructible and can do anything, accomplish anything, if we just push ourselves hard enough.
The reality is that this is not so. Floods, hurricanes, and tornados are powerful reminders of nature how the seemingly indestructible can perish. In our own lives, an illness, an accident, the loss of employment, death of a family member, a economic downturn, a divorce- these can all test the limits of our strength and endurance. For many of us, it is only such drastic events as these which force us to turn to God and acknowledge our weakness and need. It is only in these circumstances when we cry out to Him. And sadly, once our world is righted again, we forget how much we truly need Him, and it’s back to business as usual. The illusion of strength returns…..
How wise are those who live in constant dependency upon Him! Blessed are those who remember daily their own insufficiency for all things and rely upon His grace and abiding love to navigate every circumstance in their lives. They have relinquished the illusion of strength and embraced weakness. And it is in this weakness that His strength is made perfect! Amen.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of a bone marrow transplant. We understand that when the bone marrow is diseased it must be irradiated and destroyed. Once this happens, a transfusion of healthy bone marrow is initiated and after a period of time this healthy marrow takes root and begins to produce healthy blood cells instead of diseased ones. This is how certain types of cancers can be cured.
It is a similar process within us when Christ comes to dwell in us. Our old, diseased marrow must be exchanged for the healthy marrow of this new Life. Our old sinful nature must be killed off. We must die to ourselves. It is only then that the healthy life giving force within us is free to flourish.
Those who experience this “transplanted nature” of Christ, like one recovering from a bone marrow transplant, need a carefully protected environment in which to begin their new life. Without such an environment, they can easily perish from the “infection” brought on by our culture and other forms of worldliness. Without proper support, these transplanted new Christians may fare even worse than their counterparts. In some ways they are even less able to fight off the ravages of disease than before their “transplant”. They need a protected environment in which they are nurtured, loved, supported, instructed, until they are strong enough to step out into the world with their new transplanted nature and face the inevitable conflicts that will arise as they face a world which no longer understands them or shares their values. Without a functional, stable, supportive, church environment these newly transplanted Christians may grow sick quickly and die. It is perhaps worse for them than if they had never been “transplanted” in the first place. For having endured one failed transplant, they are much less likely to be willing to undergo the process again at a later time. This is why Christ was so careful not to speak any message to a group or individual before they were ready to receive it. In perfect understanding of each heart He encountered, He never spoke more than people were ready or able to hear. Lest they have “eyes to see and ears to hear” before their hearts were ready to receive.
Some wonder today why there are not many new converts to Christianity. This may be a merciful act of God, one designed to save people from a much worse end. While coming to Christ is indeed important, coming at the right time, and having a healthy support system within a functional church to nurture the new Christian carries the same importance, if not more so. There is no higher calling for the Church of Jesus Christ in our world today than the care of newly transplanted souls.