I am a few months short of fifty, and I am beginning to feel the signs of aging. I'm not going to complain, though. I am very fortunate. I can walk unaided, and briskly. I can see, hear, and speak. I am not battling cancer or heart disease.
When I am sick, I am even more reminded of the fragility of our bodies. Last week, I had a sinus infection; the kind where your head, eyes, ears, cheekbones, and teeth hurt. I told my husband I wanted to push back up on the roof of my mouth because I felt like my sinuses were crushing my throat. I spent most of the week drinking lemon-ginger tea and trying to concentrate while I read. I resorted to an audio recording of The Fellowship of the Ring, only to fall asleep. I felt miserable. I had to miss a social event with my husband, and stayed home alone watching reruns of Call the Midwife. My bed was unmade, and the kitchen counters full of crumbs and other paraphenalia. I don't like being sick. I feel so powerless, so helpless. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself, and I shouldn't. Some people live with much worse, daily, with no hope of it ending.
Modern medicine gives us a measure of control by helping us manage symptoms. A healthier lifestyle can help with cholesterol and blood pressure; a diabetic can assist his condition by eating properly; cancer patients can have treatments and surgery. But, ultimately, there is no cure for many health issues. The "control" of our illness is limited. Our bodies are not meant to live forever. They're meant to die.
That middle-aged thing
I've also felt this loss of control as I've moved in and through middle age. From out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, and without any changes in lifestyle, I found myself carrying more weight. All of a sudden, the jeans didn't fit the same. I exercised. Nothing happened. I dieted. Nothing happened. Unless I want to turn my life into nothing but the pursuit of a size 7 (which sounds like a rather empty existence), my extra weight isn't likely to go anywhwere soon. Exercise gurus and personal trainers can give us the same sense of control by helping us control our weight. Women can keep their girlish figures, and maybe some of them will avoid the middle age weight gain, but again, there is no cure for the aging process.
I don't like feeling out of control. Does anyone? Being able to exert a measure of control over our bodies can fool us into thinking we have more power than we do. We think that our exercise regimens, our diets, and our locally grown chicken is our key to the kingdom. But it's an illusion. It will not prevent illness, aging, or death. Those who deal with serious health issues on a daily basis have already learned this lesson.
He does as he pleases
Psalm 115:1-3 says:
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
"Where is their God?"
Our God is in the heavens;
he does as he pleases.
We know it is true. God is in control, and He does what He pleases. Did you notice how that Psalm begins? It begins with a call for God's glory, not our own. How much of our fascination with our bodies has anything to do giving glory to God? Much of the time, we like to be lean and trim so people can see. Our health is a matter of pride at times, "Oh, I don't eat that, so I'm healthy!" or "I work out five days a week; I'm so fit!"
God is glorified through healthy or thin bodies, but His glory is always profoundly visible in weaknesses. Think about the people you know who are terminally ill, chronically ill, live with physical challenges, or are caring for someone in those positions. You'll learn a lot from them.
I'm thankful I feel better today. And I'm thankful for those times when my body reminds me that I'm not in control. I will get sick again in the future, and I'm resigned to in all likelihood never getting back into those Levi's that are waiting for me to slim down. I think I'll give them to the used clothing pick up next time so someone can wear them now. I'm healthy right now, and I have so much to be thankful for. These lessons from God about exactly who is in control are a good thing.