Caring for the Stranger


This thing keeps following me around. Everywhere I go, there it is. Every time I look in a mirror I am startled to see it, right there, this stranger looking back at me.

This stranger is, of course, my body. I’ve been estranged from my body for most of my life. I didn’t do many sports as a kid.  My mother eventually gave up on piano lessons for me. When I tried joining a drumming circle in the 90’s it was readily apparent that I had absolutely no rhythm.

I did the minimalist tasks to care for my body, brushing its teeth, bathing it, dentist visits and doctor appointments. But it was a mundane drudgery, performed only out of a sense of necessity. I hated exercising. I treated my body like a petulant child by indulging it when it wanted a beer or seconds (or thirds) at dinner, giving in to its demands for attention so that I could go on ignoring it.

I was blessed with a reasonably durable body, capable of enduring a significant degree of neglect and abuse. However, it really started interfering with my life when I ruptured a disk a decade ago. Tasks I had taken for granted, like walking and going down stairs, were difficult if not impossible. As I recovered from surgery I started taking care of my body a bit more seriously. But just a bit.

About a year before I retired I really started thinking about my future with this vessel on which I was so dependent. I started walking at lunch.  Before long I realized that I was enjoying getting out in the fresh air and actually moving my body. Since retirement I’ve continued walking (and enjoying it) almost daily.

Tish’s book has reminded me that my body is more than a vessel, a container for my mind and soul. It is not some machine that I need to tweak and tune. It is the means by which I exist in the world.

Life is a miracle. Jesus may have walked on water, but life itself is by far the greater miracle. We start out as an infinitesimal speck of DNA from each of our parents, then God builds us out of the dust of the earth, then breaths life and soul into us. Our body, our mind and our soul are one, a trinity.

Our body is a gift beyond measure! It is the means by which we live and love; by which we seek and find and worship God. If God considered life in a human body so precious that God incarnated Herself into one in the form of Jesus, then how can I not be greatly honored, drawn to care for this gift? How can I love and care for my wife, my children, my friends and strangers if I don’t have a body with which to do so?  The better I care for this body the more opportunity to meet, love and care for friends and strangers.

The stranger I most need to meet and love and care for is my own body. 

Genesis 2:7 (The Message)

God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive — a living soul!

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