I was so delighted to be bounding with energy that I didn’t notice at first when other things veered slowly further and further from what is healthy and considered "normal". And so one of the prices I paid for a thyroid finding its way back to balance was a malfunctioning lower digestive system. Oddly, things in this part of my body were working perfectly, humming along at a steady rhythm when I was in the place where I could barely move my limbs or lift myself out of bed in the morning.
I was patient with the dilemma at first; this is usually my way when presented with a difficulty, bodily or otherwise. My prayers are usually something like, Hi God, I’d really appreciate if You would bring healing to this area. I’m doing okay though and know You’ve got a lot going on and there’s probably something you’d like me to learn from this. So I’m just going to wait it out and learn what I can, but if you could put fixing this thing on your list of Things to Do, I’d really appreciate it.
I waited and waited. Days stretched to weeks and finally a month had passed and nothing had really changed. My lower digestive system was increasingly rebellious, staging a rather impressive coup. I was doing everything I knew to do: eating the right foods, drinking lots of water, drinking cleansing teas, taking the appropriate supplements. I was even exercising regularly again. Nothing was working; things were terrifically wrong in this area and it was starting to impact my ability to move comfortably through my days. But it was only getting worse. My concern slowly escalated.
I’d put my hand on my belly and pray for some holy magic healing touch to be conveyed through my fingers, wondering. Waiting. Please. Nothing happened.
And then finally my patience had been exceeded and I reached the point at which I began to crack; every emotion spurt out with impressive force through the fissures, knocking down anyone who was so unfortunate as to be in its path. I often reach this place after being patient for a time, waiting and waiting with my body for things to get better, but instead moving toward rightness, things venture further and further from where they should be.
I was in the shower when the tears just started coming. I was frustrated. I felt tight and uncomfortable, expanding and stretching all over. I knew this was a failure of good health. It did not help that earlier that day, I had lost a button and a clasp on pants that had fit comfortably not long before to crazy activities like getting out of my car and sitting down at my desk. I felt like the skin around my belly, thighs, arms, and chest were stretching to their outer limits. One friend kindly suggested that the pants were poorly made. Another posited they shrunk in the dryer. While I appreciated their efforts to provide alternate explanations as to why buttons and clasps were popping off my pants, I had closely watched my body puff out and swell over the previous days and weeks and knew that their suggestions while kind, were not accurate.
I desperately wanted a vacation from my own flesh, an advance on the new body waiting for me at the resurrection. I made fists and pummeled the wall of the shower. Damnit!! I asked why can’t You just fix it? Why can't things just work? Why am I always breaking? Why why why?
It is simple to assent in an intellectual kind of way that I can’t control what happens in my body, even if I follow the proverbial Rule Book of Good Health to the letter. I get this and have witnessed this devastating truth in others. I’ve known a healthy mom in her early forties take a sudden last gulp of air before dying of a massive heart attack in her bed early one morning. A co-worker of mine is battling cancer and enduring the rigors of chemotherapy for the third time in the few years since I’ve known her. And then there’s me: the regular exerciser, obsessive supplement-taker, she who loves and regularly consumes vegetables, the bearer of a body who just can’t get along with itself. None of it really makes any kind of sense. At least not in the way I'd like it to.
It is hard to explain how heartbreaking and deeply disconcerting it is: I know better than to expect any of life to be fair, but this body journey has taught me that in my heart, I still want this and to a certain degree, expect it. I don’t know whether it’s intrinsic to our design as humans or if I’m just clinging to childish notions of how the world should be. But I do know that it’s much easier to acknowledge the elementary truth that life isn’t fair when circumstances are to my liking, or when it is someone else enduring under hardship.
This is all so humbling.
So what I come to is this: regardless of how my body responds, it is a temple. There may be cracks in the wall and the paint might be peeling. I might not like what I see when I look around. But it is the space in which I am uniquely me, a sacred space inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It is my responsibility to be good to it for as long as I have it. Even so, it is slowly aging and will one day die. And more than what I do or don’t do, more than rules and notions of rightness or supplements or vitamins or vegetables, I need to cling to Him. He is the One who will redeem this fantastic mess and one day, make all things new.
photo © 2008 jen fox photography