Monday, June 9, 2008
Who Will Rescue Me From This Body of Death?
A man named R.D. Laing once said that life is a sexually transmitted disease, and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.
Overall, this is a disgusting way to think about God-given, God-breathed life. Approaching each day I live with that sort of attitude leads simply to despair. But there are a few elements of human life that I think Laing is hinting at here:
- The Fallen World: Sin is most assuredly at work in both the spiritual and the physical. We most often think about sin in the spiritual sense. But notice that in Genesis 3, God's description of the curse of the fall is almost wholly physical.
- Decay of the Physical: In life, we all must experience the reality of decay, the breaking-down of our physical bodies. In youth, there is a carefree enjoyment of the gift of good health; but even still, some of the young know only physical suffering. In age, there comes a sometimes gradual, sometimes rapid, deterioration of the systems and functions of the human body.
- Inevitability of Death: "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full..." (Ecclesiastes 1:7a). Both Scripture and, even more vividly, our own human experience, tell us the truth of human mortality.
There have been many writers, thinkers, and artists that have contemplated all of this far more deeply and with far more eloquence than I, but I wanted to share these thoughts because my view of these truths has been sharpened in a strange way recently.
Over the past 48 hours, the limitations and imperfections of my own physical body have been made very apparent. Not only did I badly sprain my ankle (I heard ligaments popping out of place at the time I injured it), but also a quite potent virus that has gotten into my system. Saturday night, I spent hours icing and elevating the unrelenting throbbing in my ankle. The next morning, I awoke to violent stomach pains, resulting in some fairly unpleasant occurrences throughout the entire day yesterday and an inability to keep any food or drink down (I'll leave it at that). I found myself immobilized, sleeping for short periods, unable to focus on any real thought or conversation, and with a pounding headache to boot. As I write this morning, some of the stomach pain has subsided, but I can feel a tingling soreness in the back of my throat that tells me I will probably be coughing for the rest of the week.
I say all of this, however, not to complain. In fact, I am even now reminded of how thankful I should be that these are the only things with which I am suffering. I have a feeling that within the next few days, my sickness will be gone, and my ankle will hopefully feel significantly better. One of my friends who is currently battling cancer, who has already experienced all these symptoms and more for the past several months, and who has a long month of chemotherapy treatments ahead of her - she, if anyone, would have a right to complain.
Rather, I am now simply thankful and thoughtful. Sickness and injury can give us a more concrete way of pondering the idea of a final sleep, a concept I often find far too abstract to wrap my mind around.
My thankfulness is twofold:
- I am thankful in the short-term, for the physical provision that the Lord offers me even now. I am thankful for His healing and his sustenance.
- I am thankful in the long-term, for the physical restoration that the Lord will bring about. He "will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of His glorious body" (Phil. 3:21) and "the body that is sown perishable will be raised imperishable" (1 Cor 15:42).
"Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." (1 Cor 15:49)
For a long time, 1 Corinthians 15 has been one of my most cherished passages of Scripture. It offers hope of a kind that no other earthly leader can. Obama may promise change, but we know that his sort of change can only go so far. Christ promises that "we will be changed" (1 Cor. 15:52b) and that we will be clothed with the imperishable.
Who will rescue me from this body of death?