Rustlings (August 29, 2016)

My body has changed over time. (This is one of those articles I will probably regret writing as soon as it’s published; it’s a little too personal. Oh well.) Ten years ago I developed bulging varicose veins in my legs. Are these my legs? About the same time, my hairline receded, and the inhabitants of its borders began to turn grey. Is this my head? Since moving to Greenville, I’ve gained fifteen pounds. I’m sitting on my sofa as I type, and my tummy is protruding to provide a little table for my coffee mug. I’ve resumed training – swimming, biking and running – but my weight remains the same. What is happening to me? Is this my torso? Is this my metabolism? Is this really my body? In essence, I’m still me. My story is still mine, my identity is still intact, but I sure do look different. My body has changed over time.

I had coffee with a fellow church member last week. He’s seen years – decades – of Sundays pass at First Baptist Church. Perhaps the most significant line of our conversation was when he confessed, “I love my church, but it sure looks different than it used to.” He went on to share about changes that occurred at the downtown campus, in the transition to Cleveland Street, with each staff transition, in his own life and of course in Greenville as a city. In his words, “The church was tighter back then. We all sort of looked the same and believed the same.” He went on to speak of his personal shifts in biblical understanding, relationships he does not understand, and how little we really know of the mystery of God; how silly we are in the boldness and certainty of our statements about God. We talked about how much faith practice has changed from the Old Testament slaughtering of animals to first century ‘demonic-based’ view of illness to the darkness of the Middle Ages to the over-enlightened-Googleanything- theology that we endure today. And then we reflected on a beautiful truth – God has patiently walked with us through all of this.

It’s true. Our bodies do not look the same. They are not as tight and symmetrical as they once were. But with age, they tend to be filled with a little more wisdom and grace… and that’s not a bad thing.

— Jim