Somehow, for most of my life, my identity as a Christian has seemed to negate my identity as a human. However the message came, I picked up that my flesh is sinful and to be hated so that my spirit can prosper and live eternally with God. Maybe that’s why I did so many self-destructive things as a young adult. Maybe I figured that my body was so detestable, that I should just abuse it and neglect it. Maybe that was why I didn’t care when I saw friends or loved ones abuse or neglect their bodies. This body, after all, will be replaced with a glorified body one day, following the resurrection steps of Jesus. So, it’s pretty useless in spiritual terms anyway, right?
Well, that isn’t so right. The first thing I had to sit with for a while – like, years – is the fact that Jesus did come to earth wearing flesh. Fully Divine and fully human – that’s what we believe, right? If flesh itself is so detestable, Jesus probably would have come up with another way to save us, so that he could avoid such contamination of his Divinity.
There are a lot of Gnostic Christians still walking around, I think, believing that bodies are bad and spirits are good. Think about this, though: Jesus came to us and for us . . . in a body. And beyond the miracle of the incarnation, our bodies are redeemed toward a future BODILY resurrection. As Barbara Brown Taylor says in her best-selling An Altar in the World, in the middle of pain or disease, most of us miss the fact that “our bodies remain God’s best way of getting to us.”
How can we reconcile our flesh, then, in spiritual terms? How can we seek holiness while wearing this fleshy dress without despising the dress? I suppose we can all start by recognizing the way Jesus lived in his skin. Having skin really is the most basic connection we have as humans. Flesh and bones, we are – all of us. And Jesus’ ministry was profoundly a ministry of restoring bodies that were, in various ways, broken. Jesus saw spiritual value in healing, loving, and restoring flesh. He redeemed it. He showed us how to transform.
As always, transformation is where I land. I am so grateful for the possibility and the process of transformation! So, as I continue to walk the earth in my bony, often dirty feet, and as I walk alongside my companions who also might have issues with dirt or disease or destructive habits or other intensely human traits, I am reminded that Jesus thinks wearing skin is a great way to change the world.