It is important to remember that we exist in bodies. That may seem like an utterly (uh duh!) obvious observation, but the fact of the matter is that we oftentimes forget this, expecting our state of mind to exist altogether separate from the reality of our bodily existence.
On a practical level, what this means is that qualities that we associate with our spiritual lives like gratitude, compassion, and hope will be affected by such mundane bodily questions as: have I gotten enough rest (or exercise)? Have I eaten well (or poorly)? Am I constipated? (How’s that for a spiritual reflection?) Sometimes a foul spiritual disposition may have more to do with neglect of our bodies than anything else. As we age, our body’s energy steadily lessens. It is our arrogance that assumes we should be able transcend our bodies. God grant us the serenity to accept that which we cannot change.
The Biblical tradition declares that creation is good, which means that it is good to have a body. We are wondrously made by our God. Our bodies permit us to experience the beauty of creation through all our senses. Conversely, it also implies that we will be impacted by such things as whether a particular day is sunny or cloudy and gray.
Our bodies are mortal, and that fact must be honored. As a faithful Jew, Jesus kept the Sabbath, appreciating the body’s need for a full day off once a week. Generally speaking, he lived in harmony with the natural rhythm of night and day, resting when the sun went down. Walking is perhaps the best exercise, and by necessity Jesus did plenty of walking. (In certain ways, we might be better off if the automobile had never been invented.) He took his time eating his meals (there are no instances recorded of Jesus eating fast food!) His digestion surely benefited.
Bodies also have the capacity to experience pain, which Jesus knew as well. It’s a package deal: the capacity to experience beauty goes hand in hand with the capacity to experience pain.
The Lord’s prayer reminds us of our physicality: “Give us this day our daily bread.” It also includes the verse, “And lead us not into temptation.” We have a hand to play in avoiding temptation. When we are hungry, or tired, or constipated, we are more likely to succumb to the temptation to be cruel to others as well as to ourselves.
Creator God, you have declared that our earthly lives are good. Help us to be good stewards of our bodies, that we may embrace the gift of created goodness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.