It is the year 2011. My hands grip the porcelain in front of me. My knees hurt from kneeling for so long. For a moment, I stop breathing. I cough. I cough until I feel the bile rising from my stomach. I cough until it’s out. I feel the burning sensation. I can feel it eroding my teeth. Burning my throat. But I throw up the one thing I have eaten in the last 24 hours. The handful of popcorn sits in the toilet water in front of me.
I stop holding onto the toilet and begin holding onto myself. My hands clutch my stomach fat. My nails dig into my flesh. Deeper. Deeper. Deeper.
This body that I am in is wrong. This body is drenched in sin. It’s ugly. It’s wrong. One day we will escape here. That is our hope. That is our goal. Get the hell out of here. Everything is wrong. I’m wrong. This body is a mistake. But Jesus died for my soul. Jesus died for my soul that will go to heaven and not be in this body anymore. Someday, I told myself, I will not have this nose or these legs or this stomach fat. Someday I will only be my soul. Maybe if I starve myself enough I will reduce to only a soul.
“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
It is the year 2015. I am in my room alone, and I cannot breathe. Anxiety has me pinned to a corner. I’m trying to text my friends to tell them I love them, maybe I want to ask them to save me. But I don’t want to be saved. I want to take as many pills as I can shove into my mouth and I want to die. Every day on the news there is another catastrophe. There is another shooting. There is another racist riot. There is more hate filled legislation. There are more attacks of terror. There is more evidence of a sin filled world. There are more reminders that things are wrong.
I want to leave now. I want God to say enough now. I want pain to cease existing right now. I want what I am supposed to want; justice. I want God to wipe out every racist, rapist, corrupt politician, murderer, and sinner. I want God to take up His beloved and leave this place. Take us Home. Help me escape so maybe I won’t have to. God can end this. Please end this.
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.”
It is the year 2016. I am in the ER screaming until my vocal chords shred. There is pain ravaging my body. My legs tighten up; it feels like needles are pressing into them. The monitor is beeping, telling me that my heart rate is far too high. The doctor comes in and tells me I might be about to have a heart attack; that I need to calm down. My blood pressure is too low, my heart rate is too high. They tell me I need to stop screaming. But I can’t. I am in so much pain. They tell me I could die.
I know this is my body’s fault. My body whose immune system can’t tell the difference between its own organs and bacteria. My body that let cancer fester in my thyroid. My broken body that has developed shingles that have spread all across my legs, in patches of burning skin. My stupid, stupid body. This body that I tried to love. It took me years to realize that no matter how much I tried to love my body, it would only ever hate me.
But in heaven, they say, I won’t have this body. It will decay like it deserves. This wretched body who hurt me. Who made life a living hell. This body that feels like its falling apart. This body that runs like an old car. I don’t want this flesh anymore. I want to leave.
“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His spirit who lives in you.”
It is the year 2018. Easter Sunday. I sit in the pews at my church and I feel my hands. I feel my own skin. I think of every horrible thing I have ever done to my body, and for all the horrible things I have done with my body. I think about the hope of Easter and what it means for a man to have lived, to die, to live again. What does it mean for my self-hate and my sick body and my sin?
To think that the hope we have is not a distant hope, but one that impacts how we live in our day to day lives.
I believe in total body resurrection. I believe that what happens on this Earth impacts me. I believe one day I will show God my tattoos, the scar on my cheek from when I was born, and the scars on my legs from growing up reckless. And I believe He will show me His hands as proof of the life He lived. The scars on His hands, and maybe the cut on His leg from a carpentry incident, or the mark from a person in a too-pressing crowd.
I read recently that “half our theology is autobiographical.”
These musing I have about the resurrection are messy. I’m not a theologian or an expert or even much of an intellectual. But I have lived 21 years in a body I wanted to escape and I can't imagine God thinking that was okay. I think I was surrounded by people who fed into my escapism idea. I guess I just used belief in God as a coping mechanism to not have to think about my present sufferings. But I don’t think the hope of Easter is about escaping at all. I think it’s about renewing. It’s about fixing. It's about the fact that Jesus was a man who died and then became alive again and bypassed all the laws of the human world. And it's bizarre and crazy to believe but if that was true it would change everything.
And lately, I’ve been thinking about how that truth would change me.
Because I didn’t get told enough that my body mattered. That I have a physical form. That these bones were created with an intent. I heard that “my body was a temple” but no one ever told me I was to love it just because it was made. I always thought that my hope was in “becoming new” and replacing this body with one that looked a bit better or didn’t have as much baggage.
But I think about Jesus and the scars on His hands. I think about Him in heaven with the scars on His hands. And it makes me think that God doesn’t want me to run away anymore. He doesn’t want me to hyper fixate on some distant future where I am not me anymore.
C.S Lewis famously said, “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” And you know what? I disagree. I am a soul and a body. I think both were created and the incredible combination of my soul and my body uniquely make up Faith O’Leary. I think I have a vessel and I don’t think God wants me to ignore it.
Jesus had scars on His hands.
Maybe my body is not wrong. Maybe I was created with a purpose. Maybe God is hurting when I hurt. Maybe I need to love this body that doesn’t love me in return, because maybe one day it will be fixed. One day, maybe I will be able to forgive my body and I hope it forgives me too. One day God will see what I have done with my body; my tattoos and my piercings and my haircut and I hope He smiles at how I chose to decorate myself.
Today I want to give it what it deserves. Feed it when it’s hungry. Give it water instead of coffee when it’s thirsty. Don’t hurt it anymore. Know that God never wished this sickness on me. Know that God wants me to live on this Earth because when He came, He lived on this Earth and He beat death on this Earth. That Jesus Christ came to be one of us and show us that one day, when we are alive again, we will carry the scars from this life and they will just be scars and not open wounds. Maybe the hope of Easter is that today matters as much as tomorrow; that the present body is a gift from God that we have right now.
And some day, some day, this suffering will end.
But until then, know that today matters too.