1 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. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
All summer, rattling round in my dim distracted mind, there had been a jangling feeling of distress and alienation about my own physical body. For those of you who have had any number of babies you might know what I'm talking about without my even saying it. But I'm going to try to say it anyway.
After being pregnant with Elphine I felt like I better understood the new knowledge of a baby discovering the presence of a hand or a foot for the first time. You're born, you take your body for granted because, well, there it is, and then you start to wake up and discover things, one of the first being a strange waving hand or foot. Being pregnant for the first time is maybe not exactly the same but similarly sort of wondrous and strange. Your body, that you're so used to, becomes a swollen and pain delivering alien, and then after you are delivered of the thing you so long to have, your body is given back to you broken and different. Of course, you don't have time to think about it because your body is still totally required for the life of the other. But after the nursing is done, and the house is cleaned a few million times, and supper is made over and over, and you start figuring out how to teach children to read, then finally the fattest baby of all is delivered and starts running around shouting at you and flinging blocks around the room forcing you start seriously exercising so that you can out pace that baby when she makes a mad dash across the church parking lot. She doesn't have a prayer, of course, because you met the challenge, chugging up the hill for a year and a half. You can take a whole breath, or swim for twenty minutes without becoming winded, or rearrange all the furniture in your school room without even thinking about it. Then arrives another moment of strangeness where you feel like your body might be your own again, but it's seriously not the body you knew before.
I had the shadow of Jesus' broken body, there on the cross, hanging over me as we drove from place to place all summer, as I fit into clothes I'd been long wishing I could wear, as I applied layers of eye shadow and lipstick (because we were in the south). The fact is, I'm a broken person, my body a broken container for my broken and sinful soul. My broken body properly reflects my broken soul. I try really hard to make sure no one can see how broken I am both outside and inside, which is not always a good thing. I've noticed lately that when I say, 'I'm a bad person and I'm really struggling to let go of such and such....' I'm met with cries of horror. 'No,' people say, 'don't say that! You're not bad!' But I am full of evil and if others think that's not true than I must be lying to myself and them.
Jesus' perfect body was horrifically broken. His perfect and sinless soul made his broken flesh the perfect injustice. But his broken flesh was one of the means by which he gave life to me. The destruction of his body was a perfect gift. He was a perfect sacrifice, in life and in death and in resurrected life.
My body has broken in a smaller, much less devastating way as I've given life to So Many (oh my word, there are just so many of them, twirling and shouting at me right this minute) others. And it's not the same thing, of course, but it's such a helpful picture for me, a helpful, life giving shadow, hovering over me. That I could give my body, that I could let it be broken, to give another life, to serve, to build up, is good and right, even as most of the brokenness is not the result of giving life but of sin. The strangest thing of all is God being able to eradicate the sin through suffering and to make whole the broken heart through the breaking body.
Nevertheless, the world presses in, lying to me, telling me that I ought not break, that I ought to be physically perfect, but not giving a fig for my soul. So the text above, which came up for me this morning in the regular course of reading, suddenly made the shadow into a clear form.
And with that clear form in view I am going to post this because it turns out if I sit blogging all day I'll actually be sinning. We'll see if I ever get to complete this thought. Maybe tomorrow, maybe when I'm eighty.