‘Tis the season for blogs to be neglected in the shuffle to get ready for Christmas. The Christmas boxes have erupted their contents all over our living room and are begging to have their contents tastefully displayed… the kids have hung some lights and sparkling garland. Christmas music is playing nearly non-stop at our house. I got a new CD this year that has turned my attention back to a profound truth, the backbone of Christmas—God became a man, took on flesh and blood, got into a human body. What a liability. What vulnerability. What a ‘downgrade’. The eternal taking on a fragile tent of existence…
As my body edges nearer its half-century anniversary the ‘hiccups’ in performance grow more frequent and pronounced…
A friend needs a biopsy.
A neighbor, a colonoscopy.
What’s that ache in my side, that recurring pain?
Maybe I do too!
I think these bodies are not unlike old cars in certain respects. Look at our old “Crown Vic”: scars from past encounters, poor reception–especially since the antenna broke off, ‘range of motion’ issues in the driver’s side electric window, inability to run up hills with the energy it once knew, a chronic lack of get-up-and-go when it’s time to accelerate… See any resemblances to your own model of flesh and blood? Wouldn’t it be nice if a change of spark plugs would cure-all—in both instances?!
It seems though that there is a ‘planned obsolescence’ involved. Old cars and old bodies are both born to die. A book I’ve been reading lately states it pretty pointedly: “There’s no escaping this fate, no circumventing our planned obsolescence in this world. There is no discipline that will appease it, no faith that will reverse it, no bargaining nor even love that can buy it off.” (*Mason, p.152) Sounds like my renewed determination to exercise more faithfully and eat fewer chocolate chip cookies may be in vain!
If you are brave enough, read this author’s morbid depiction of old age:
“If we are lucky enough to survive into old age, it will only be to find that even the most basic amenities of life will begin to be withdrawn from us one by one: legal freedoms; good health; friends; the comforts of our own home; physical and intellectual abilities; the capacity to think clearly, remember things, read a book, walk around the block, enjoy food, go to the bathroom. An old man is a ruined city, a fallen kingdom, a disaster area full of leaks and potholes and crumbling walls. In the end there may be nothing left to him but life itself, the faintest squiggle on a piece of graph paper, and even that may be unceremoniously flicked away like a speck of lint from the collar of the dashing young world.”(*Mason, p.152)
Oh my. That sounds depressing. I found myself out for a walk after reading that, determining that I surely don’t want to live to old age! But kicking and screaming (inside!) in resistance is not much use. My life is not my own…I’ve been bought with a price and this body is here to glorify its Maker… Hmm. That’s a fresh perspective. And what’s the point of raging against becoming obsolete, if in fact the whole of creation is flowing toward that end? What am I saying when I insist on wanting this body to be forever young?! Could it be I am declaring ‘a preference for temporal values over eternal ones.’ (Mason, p.153) That’s convicting. Mason goes so far as to state that in fact to struggle not to become obsolete is not only a pitiful struggle but a rejection of the very kingdom of God and its gift of eternal life! (p.153)
OK. So what are we to do? We’re trapped inside bodies that are destined to decay. The wiring and the plumbing and all the systems we’ve come to depend on may in fact go bad. The writing is on the wall (quite literally these days with Facebook)–health issues infiltrate conversations both live and virtual more often than they used to… . What’s to be done? Could it be that this whole issue of planned obsolescence is
purposeful? Could it be that accepting my own demise, however soon or late, is the first step toward exchanging temporal values for eternal ones? When do I long for Heaven more—when I’m happy as a clam in my cozy shell at high tide? or when my shell is in peril and my existence pained?
There are plenty of passages in Scripture that lend a clear perspective. The whole crowd in Hebrews 11 comes to mind. If anybody had something to complain about they did! They certainly knew bodily discomfort! All were commended for their faith yet died not having received the promises they awaited– yet. And then comes this charge in Hebrews 12. I just got a Message New Testament today. Let me quote from it:
“Do you see what this means-all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!… Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-3The Message—E.Peterson
Ahh… and there it is again. The purpose of Christmas– God becoming man to blaze the way to Heaven for me. To conquer death and the bondage that comes with fearing it. Say, that’s reason to bring on the decorations. Let’s celebrate! A Savior has been born to us—hope has come! As a friend says, “Life is hard. God is good. Let’s dance!”
And if you’re in need of a shot of perspective by way of music, pop on some headphones, turn up the volume and listen to: “Hope has Come”,
an energizing song from Sovereign Grace’s SAVIOR album, where you can recharge your ‘batteries’. Enjoy. I commend to you the whole album, which I bought myself for an early Christmas present this year ( : LS]
*Quotations taken from The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason