Tuesday, March 19, 2024


What's interesting about the human body, in all of its incredible glory and its great paradoxes, is that it's one of those things that we think about most often only in its brokenness. 

When our bodies are working well, we take them for granted. When things are working as they are supposed to, we rarely think about them at all. We just go about our day, doing what we need to do, and not even really being thankful for our ability to do them. We don't really marvel at our creation when it's doing what it's supposed to do...it doesn't really occur to us. 

But break our bodies just a little bit....

Give us one little thing that doesn't work right, and it's the only thing we can think about. Give us the sniffles, and we've never thought harder about breathing. Give us a hangnail, and we've never thought more about our ability to touch things. Stub our toe, and all of a sudden, we're keenly aware of the steps that we take. 

Give us one little thing that doesn't work exactly the way that it should, and all of a sudden, we're not only thinking about our bodies in ways that we don't have to most of the time, but we feel ourselves being stuck in the paradoxes. 

Most everyone who knows me know that I am a runner. I enjoy running, and I've been running for 9 years. I enjoy the way it feels to have my body work together to embrace a strength that, in the course of my regular life, I too easily forget that I have. I like feeling strong. 

But it's also really easy for me, as someone who knows and routinely feels the strength in her own body, to become irrationally upset when something else isn't working the way that it's supposed to. 

After battling Covid, when I started struggling to breathe (as it turns out, due to prolonged hypoxia - or low oxygen levels), I was angry for a long time. I  knew my muscles were strong enough. I knew my legs could carry me. I knew what it felt like to have that feeling of strength in my body. But...I couldn't breathe. And it felt like this one little broken thing was holding all of the rest of me back from everything I was capable of. It was excruciatingly frustrating. It ate at me for a very long time. 

Because I just expect that if my system is mostly functional, it should be fully functional. If I know that it works, it should work completely. If there's a little bit of it that seems out of whack, the rest of me should be able to make up for it, as if all of my strong parts should be able to compensate for my weaker ones, even if they don't serve the same function. 

There is nothing else in my body that breathes the way my lungs do, and it doesn't matter how strong my legs are; they will never be able to breathe for me. Never. And that was a hard pill to swallow. 

This is the kind of humility that we need. We need to understand the relationship between parts of the whole. We need to understand our dependence on things to do just the things they are designed to do, and we have to understand that all the straining and struggle and discipline in all the world is not going to make one part do something it wasn't designed to do, no matter how strong it is at its own thing. We are complex systems, made up of very specific parts of the whole, and we need wholeness

Our bodies remind us of that. 

For some of us, they remind us of that far too often. 

But such is human living. 

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