Lord, you have examined me
and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know my thoughts before I think them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
You know everything I do.
Lord, even before I say a word,
you already know it.
You are all around me—in front and in back—
and have put your hand on me.
Your knowledge is amazing to me;
it is more than I can understand.
You made my whole being;
you formed me in my mother’s body.
I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.
What you have done is wonderful.
I know this very well. (Psalm 139, selected verses)
I read those verses often – every time I visit a new baby, in fact. It is one of the holiest aspects of my ministry and life – reminding children (and their parents) about the care that God has had for each of us, and about the wonders of our bodies.
I thought about that passage a lot yesterday. What brought it to mind was the generous invitation from our friends at the First Presbyterian Church in Mission to attend a performance by the New Shanghai Circus, a group of phenomenally-gifted and beautiful acrobats, gymnasts, and performers who visited McAllen last night. We were treated to a breath-taking evening as we watched these athletes twist and stretch and shape their bodies in ways that left us with mouths agape. To be honest, some of our guys were a little unsure when the tickets were offered – we’d had a long day at work, and it was cold (35°) and rainy… But, to a man, we came home filled with awe and joy at the things that these people had been able to do with the bodies that they’ve been given – bodies that were truly and very evidently made in “an amazing and wonderful way.”
These were not the only bodies we saw yesterday, of course. I thought a lot about bodies that had been made amazingly and wonderfully, but had not been honored or treasured or sculpted in the same way as had those of the athletes we saw last night.
I thought about bodies as our team laid down a bunch of drywall mud and tape in a small three-bedroom home (perhaps 800 square feet) that will become the home for a family of six. They are currently living in a single room (I would guess that it measures about 10 x 12 feet) beneath a canopy of makeshift tarps and with little, if any, protection from the elements. In the United States of America. In 2015. This family, which has been awarded refugee status by our government, probably thinks about bodies a lot. I say this because the mother wears a scar across the top of her head the size of a coffee saucer that, as I was told, is the result of a gang attack. She is, as they say, “lucky to be alive.” These bodies, no less than the finely honed and perfectly sculpted forms of the acrobatic team, were made in an amazing way. But no one was applauding them yesterday.
When we got to our work site, one of the first things that the family did was introduce us to their neighbors who, according to the homeowner with whom we are working, are “really in trouble”. This family of seven is living in a small trailer. Normally, when I say “trailer”, you think of a wheeled conveyance that is a temporary home for a small group. Well, this particular object has wheels, but it’s barely holding together on this little patch of Texas dirt. If you tried to move it it would simply blow away. The good news is that this family has gathered some resources and begun to construct a new home for themselves – a 10′ x 28′ pole structure that will somehow contain two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Unless it’s like the wardrobe entrance to Narnia, they are going to be shoehorned in there in ways that defy my imagination. So far, they’ve got the shell almost all the way up – but they don’t know much about electric or plumbing. What a gift for us to arrive, and to have the ability to offer our time, energy, and, well, bodies.
If we are serious about the theology of the Psalmist, then we need to take bodies seriously. Some of my friends do this by calling attention to the ways that the unborn are are treated; others protest wars or feed the hungry. God cares about bodies – God made them. This week, our team is striving to live into the truths proclaimed by the author of life – that each life, that each body, is important. It is our deep hope that the work we do, and the way that we do it, will honor not only the bodies of the friends with whom we’ve been placed this week, but the Maker of all bodies.
You might remember that when His son was walking the earth, he looked at people like you and me and told us that we are his body now. May we behave as though we believe that we, the church of Jesus Christ, are amazingly and wonderfully made. May we point to all that is good and beautiful and perhaps, from time to time, be breathtaking ourselves in one way or another.