On Stewardship & Bodies

Last week, I sat in the dentist’s chair to repair a chipped tooth. For the second time. Or maybe the third, I can’t remember. Too many times for a tooth.

It is truly one of the most humbling positions, sitting in the dentist’s chair. Reclined at what feels like 45° with accoutrements of napkins, cotton balls, and ugly sunglasses. For a moment I become acutely aware of my nose and my eyebrows, and then I recall that my dentist sees people like this every day. 

So after my bout of insecurity had mostly passed, I stared at the spot where the wall met the ceiling and thought about how I’m quick to declare situations like these as unspiritual. As grossly physical. Mere bodily maintenance so I can go back to more important things. 

I entertained this for a while and then prayed something like: If everything matters and You’re present in all things, then…what about here?

The first definition Google gives for integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” But lately, I’ve been ruminating on what’s listed as the second definition, “the state of being whole and undivided.”

It startled me when I first connected the words “integrity” and “integrated.” When I look at my life, it’s impossible to separate my companionship as a wife, my chopping up food into tiny bits as a mom, my replying to emails as a paid employee, my check-in texts as a friend, and all the other tasks and desires and convictions that arise in a day (with or without a pandemic). Maybe by looking at the hours, kind of. But even then, I’m not less of a mom when I’m at work or less of a friend when I’m with my husband. 

I’m an integrated, whole person. Body, mind, heart, soul. And according to a podcast I listened to yesterday, the Hebrew culture interpreted Matthew 22:37–the call to love God with heart, soul, and mind–not as a command to love God with each part of us, but the whole of us. 

Bodies included.

That prayer in the dentist’s chair? What soon became clear after I spoke it was that my presence in that room was a matter of stewardship and self-control. 

I have a tendency to bite my nails, you see. I’ve quit for several weeks a handful of times before, painting them clear or dusty grey and receiving Thom’s loving hand swats from his neighboring spot on the couch. But I never stopped the habit for good. 

I’m convinced that biting my nails is what chipped my tooth–again. And I realized that a seemingly benign habit cost us several hundred dollars and actually, repeatedly, harmed a part of my body. 

Confession. Repentance. Grace to try again.

My friend Ralph wrote these words recently:

“The incarnation is a testament to what a truly human life looks like. To be fully human is to be on the path of the divine….Or, as 2 Peter invites us, to ‘participate in the divine nature.’ If this divine participation necessarily involved the normal, earthy, gritty details of everyday life for Jesus, should it not be so with us? That is human. That is meaningful work.”

As we approach Advent, I’m again perplexed and grateful that Jesus had a body and lived an integrated existence. That He could be alone with the Father, enjoy a glass of wine, disrupt bad habits, heal with His touch, and draw near to the weary, the brokenhearted, and the children. 

Everything, indeed, matters. 

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