Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Glorious Body

Ecclesiastes 7:1
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.


That scripture sums up a big question I've had for some time now- you know the kind- a big inconsistency that just knaws at your soul until you figure it out. Something that just doesn't make sense. I finally got an answer, and it's been totally transformative for me.

Okay, so in church I've been taught a number of things about the "flesh". That it's bad. Flesh is bad, spirit is good. Feed your spirit and starve your flesh so that you can grow closer to God. Then there's the famous: "You are a spirit, you have a soul, you live in a body"- as if the body was no more important than a set of clothes or a car to drive in.

Those things all make sense on some level. Of course our sin nature is not something good or something to indulge. But the more experiences I've had in life, the less I've resonated with the above statements, and I couldn't figure out why.

If the body is something bad, or at least inconsequential, then why is my own experience telling me that physical things are extremely important? I look back on Tristan's birth as one of the single most empowering, life altering experiences of my life. But why? Why is something as inherently physical as birth so transformative? I'm not the only one that's had that kind of experience. I haven't written about this yet, but the experience of breastfeeding Tristan, especially as he's gotten older, has caused me to do some deep introspection and has altered the way that I experience relationships as a whole. Why would something as physical as breastfeeding affect my soul so deeply and teach me so much about myself? Why is there something magical about the touch of human skin on human skin? On the flip side of the coin- why can physical violations be so soul shattering? Why can an assault against the physical body be so emotionally, mentally, and psychologically damaging?

These were questions that were haunting me- and yet they were so deep within my soul that I hadn't even given voice to them. And you know how the Lord has that wonderful way of answering before we even ask for something? Out of the blue one Sunday, during the sermon at church, my eyes were opened and I saw clearly the answer to these nagging inconsistencies.

The message was titled, "Heaven: A Land That You Know." It began with a C.S. Lewis quote:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Then Thad talked about some of the common misconceptions of what heaven might be like. One common one has been that we'd be floating around on a cloud playing a harp all day long. That doesn't sound like fun to me. Cloud floating is not an innate desire that we all have- but if heaven is real then shouldn't we find within ourselves a God given desire for it? Other people have said that we'll just be worshiping 24/7, like a perpetual church service. Church is often amazing, but that's honestly not something anyone wants to do forever and ever. Some people speculate that we'll all just be spirits floating around up there.

And that's when it really started to get real. He went on to explain that heaven will be a physical place, referencing the scriptures about the New Jerusalem. Then he talked about the 7 dwelling places of God over time:

1. Garden of Eden
2. The Tabernacle
3. The Temple
4. Jesus
5. The church (as in His spirit dwelling in us)
6. The re-built temple(future)
7. Eternity/A return to the Garden of Eden

The point was that each of those have been a physical dwelling place, and that heaven will be an actual physical place. We'll have physical bodies there. We'll know each other and have relationships with other people- but in such a deep way that we can't even imagine it now.

Then he went to the scripture I quoted at the very beginning of this post- it says that the day of one's death is greater than the day of birth. Gosh, that threw me. As someone who knows firsthand just how glorious birth can be- and then to say that death is even greater? How can that be???

Then it hit me. God is physical. God created it that way. Not just as a default for the time we're on earth. We're physical beings just as much as we're spiritual beings. Yes, God is a spirit, but He's Father, Son and Holy Ghost- and Jesus is a physical body!!! When He created Adam and Eve, and put them in the only perfect place this world has seen, he put them in a garden! It doesn't get much more tangible than that. A garden- what greater place could there be to see growth and life and birth??? And get this- they were naked. And they weren't ashamed. There was nothing shameful about their bodies- it was just them, who they were. It wasn't until after the fall that the body started to be covered up.

So that's what I'm figuring out- that our bodies are not something inherently bad. Yes, we all have a sin nature, but that's only because of the fall. Our bodies were initially created to be something glorious. And when we get to heaven, our bodies aren't done away with. We don't become purely spiritual beings. When we get to heaven, we trade our fallen bodies for a glorified body- a perfect body not under the curse of sin!!!

That's how the day of death can be greater than the day of birth- because we'll finally be complete. Not because we leave behind our physical body, but because it's glorified. We'll finally be in the perfect place, with perfect physical bodies. We'll have a pure spirit, soul, and body for the first time ever, and we'll be able exist fully, completely for the first time.

This is why our physical experiences here on earth can be so incredibly life changing! It's not a weird thing that happens even though our bodies are "sinful"- it's exactly how God created it to be! God made us to experience things physically. It's His plan. And I believe that when we follow the design of how He created our bodies to work as closely as we can, we see more of Him. The closer we can follow the design that he created, and respect the way that our bodies were intended to be used, the greater potential for a positive, spiritual, transformative experience. I know for me personally, my home birth was the closest thing to a supernatural experience I've ever had. That's not an anomaly- it's exactly how He designed it.

He designed us to have physical experiences. He intended for the soft touch of skin on skin to be comforting. He intended for perfect musical harmonies to be able to touch our soul and remind us of Him. He intended for a beautiful sunset to inspire us. He intended for a husband and a wife to know each other in a deep, intimate, physical way- and for that to be simultaneously physical and spiritual. He intended for not just babies, but mothers to be born through the act of childbirth. He intended for the inherently physical, tangible act of breastfeeding to affect both our bodies and our souls. And He intends for us to live with him in eternity- in a glorified, perfect, physical state!

Sunrise of river

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