By the Rev. Shari Hobby
“The body does not consist of one member but of many. . . If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12: 14, 26
Though I’ve experienced distress in my right knee since childhood, a few months ago it acquired a sleep-preventing intensity. X-rays revealed that osteoarthritis and degeneration were the pain culprits. Steroid shots and a month of physical therapy helped a lot, and we are now considering one further intervention to keep me functioning as normally as possible. Regular exercise and stretching are now essential parts of my daily routines.
The first time the therapist worked with my knee, he said, "I can tell your left hip hurts." He was right, but I hadn’t said anything about the hip. At my surprised response, he said, "You'd be amazed what I can tell you about your whole body by working with just one part." My therapy concentrated on strengthening the muscles around my knee and increasing flexibility, but also showed me how each of my movements affects every other part of me. I’ve had to relearn simple things I’ve been doing for almost 60 years, such as standing up and using stairs.
My own body has given me a clearer picture of the body of Christ. Paul tells us that when one part suffers, the whole body suffers. Since I’m a part of the body, how I’m doing affects you. How you’re doing makes a difference to me. This concept goes against the grain of my independent nature. Maybe you’re like me, trained from earliest memory to care for others while neglecting myself, not realizing that my own lack of self-care ultimately hurts you too.
My knee might need to be replaced someday. But could the outcome have been different if I had received better care the first time an injury occurred? I tolerated what could have been better tended or corrected. Not just my knee was affected, but all of me—my hips, lower back and general sense of well-being.
This is an apt image for our psycho-social and spiritual lives. Do we sometimes tolerate painful things that could be tended or corrected? How do the untended injuries in our own lives affect others in the body of Christ?
Jim and I moved to this diocese a year ago. While confident that the Lord had placed both of us here for his purposes, the struggles of my own adjustment took me by surprise. You all have been patient and gracious, as I’ve done the work of sorting through my sense of being and calling in this new place. Many of my ideas about what I thought I would be doing have been put on a shelf. Some may eventually come off that shelf, but others might stay there permanently as the Lord continues to strengthen and heal me.
Just as I’ve had to care for my knee, I’ve also needed, with the help of others, to tend to my heart and soul. The Lord has been gracious in the words he has given me, both directly and through others in the body. He provided a friend who was my “joy holder” until I was ready to take it back for myself. My physician’s tangible care and the prayers of many have been a huge support. Another friend led me to a spiritual director. Jim has walked steadily with me. I haven’t always liked where I’ve been this year, but those places have been important parts of my journey and its fruits are becoming evident. I’m grateful for each person who has traveled with me. Your gracious welcome and tender care have meant so much to me. Thank you.
How I’m doing affects you. How you’re doing affects me. Our care for ourselves and our care for each other make a difference.
What can you do to better care for yourself? What joys would multiply as you share with someone else? Who can you ask to walk this part of your journey with you so you can be as healthy as possible? And who in your life could benefit from your listening ear, your gentle concern, your helping hand, your well-timed encouragement?
Thank you for the vital part you play in the body of Christ! With me, will you tend your own life so that this part of the body can be as healthy as possible?
A Prayer of Self-Dedication
Almighty and eternal God,
so draw our hearts to you,
so guide our minds,
so fill our imaginations,
so control our wills,
that we may be wholly yours,
utterly dedicated to you;
and then use us, we pray, as you will,
and always to your glory
and the welfare of your people;
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.