In the Flesh

Brushing my teeth the other night I seriously thought–Not again!

As in:

How much time have I spent in the past thirty odd years standing over a sink, frantically scrubbing my teeth with a little plastic stick? How much time sudsing up in the shower, combing through my wet hair afterwards, drying it, finding something to wear, washing those things to wear, flossing the teeth, buying the clothes, mending the clothes, buying and preparing and cleaning up after the food required to keep this flesh and blood body running day in and day out?

But as I considered the vast amount of time spent just maintaining this body, I had an epiphany.

I always understood on some level, the sacred nature of the human body–the miracle that is human life–but I guess I never got it. Never really understood that my body is not something like my old van–something that worked well enough to get me from point A to point B; something to be merely tolerated and used and finally tossed aside when it could go not one yard further, and eventually replaced with a new and improved machine. This is it–the gift of life God and my parents gave me.

Ezekiel saw in vision a field of dry bones coming together, sinews and flesh and skin brought up on them. Apostles and prophets and Christ himself promised a resurrection of our mortal bodies–but it will be this body that will be resurrected. And here was the arresting thought–you know the parable of the talents? The idea that we will be held accountable for our gifts and what we have done with them?

For the first time I considered that maybe God will be just as interested in what I did with the physical gift of my mortal frame, as he will be with the other intangible talents he has given me. Why else would mortality be so consumed with the details of survival? If God wanted us to focus solely on spiritual things, He would have made us immortal in the first place, wouldn't he? To avoid the distractions and demands of the flesh?  Granted, we have the flesh in order to school the spirit–ideally the spirit grows stronger than the flesh instead of the other way around. But surely that ratio should not be accomplished by the physical weakening or neglect of the flesh.

I'm not proposing that an inordinate amount of time be spent on the physical self–you're not going to catch me signing up for Body Sculpting 101 or Mrs. America, but I do think I have been less than responsible with this mortal gift. Maybe because I have very little concept of my own mortality–that someday this thing could just up and quit on me. Maybe because I'm lazy–I'd much rather sit on the grass and study the History of the US government than get up and play ball with the rest of the team.

And if it is a lack of willpower (a spiritual thing, no?) that keeps me from going on that walk or run, or declining that second slice of pie, then perhaps some of the ills of my spirit manifest themselves in the ills of my flesh. They are inextricably linked.

I have new respect today for the mundane tasks of just living–they aren't asides in a more important task, but a crucial part of our schooling here on earth. Now if only I could translate that respect into action! Maybe I'll finally make that dental appointment I've been avoiding. . . 

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