I have heard many a great sermon preached from 1 Corinthians 12:
21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
And while I have always agreed and understood the application, “Oh, sure, one little paper cut can cause misery to the whole body…” it’s hard to TRULY appreciate how important one of the smaller, “lesser” body parts is until it’s compromised. I’m not just saying this. I KNOW this. I know this well.
Take your toe, for example. People can live with nine toes, it’s true. But a tenth toe, IN PAIN, causes the whole body to suffer. At the end of July, I broke my big toe. (Watch those cast iron skillets, people, they don’t play well with big toes.) I hobbled around all day, convinced I could tough it out and make due. I didn’t really think it was broken. But after the pain and swelling didn’t go down for a few days, I suspected trouble. By the end of that week (VBS week,) it was hard to walk. My feet and legs hurt from holding my foot and leg differently to avoid putting weight on my big toe. At the end of the week I borrowed crutches so I could get around without using my foot at all. I used them correctly, for several hours on the last day of VBS, in my out of shape and not so healthy condition, and the next day… I COULDN’T MOVE. Every single muscle in my body hurt. A lot.
Funny how one little toe had caused so much trouble.
Finally after 3 months, I can walk without pain, I can bend my toe, I can stand on my tippy toes, I can walk without a limp! It has taken a long time, and it came with some setbecks. In the first two weeks I could not stand for very long at one time, and I had to sit for a long time in between before I felt like standing again. I gained 10 pounds in that two weeks because of my decreased activity, adding to the existing 50 pounds I NEED to lose. But I wasn’t able to exercise and wasn’t going to be for a while. I was very depressed about that for a couple of weeks – I now weigh more than I have ever weighed in my whole life, ever. And naturally, having a broken toe interfered with chores and cleaning house. I am still recovering from that. I told my husband that even after I felt good enough to get up and get some cleaning done, it was hard work. I had gotten lazy and I had no stamina. It was very difficult to get up and work on housework without wanting to sit down and rest after about 15 or 20 minutes. I admitted that at that point it was a struggle against laziness more than anything else, but it was…IS… still a struggle. Naturally, it also interfered with dressing, bathing, grocery shopping, intimacy, driving, cooking, and other daily tasks.
One little toe.
Of course, the lesson here is that in your church family, the church body functions like your phycial body. And that when you’re truly functioning like a church body every member is a part of that body. When one member of the body hurts, the whole body hurts with it. When one member of the body rejoices, the whole body rejoices.
This can extend beyond your local church body as well. It’s not uncommon to find the ability to connect with other members of the body of Christ–in news stories, online blogs and articles, in print via magazines and newsletters, and even visiting missionaries, etc– and be able to hurt and celebrate with them as they relay all that God is doing in their life.
Yes, we are all human, and far from perfect. So like our own bodies, sometimes the church body is flawed. Sometimes we fail. But there is also Grace and Forgiveness, just as there is healing for our physical ailments. Still, we have this picture, this example of how the body of Christ should be. A living, breathing, loving body, that hurts together through the trials and rejoices together over the praises, a body that comes together and lifts up the body member in need and carries it through in prayer and love. We have that to strive for and live out, and it takes every member.
This is one of the things that I’m currently looking for in a church. It’s at the top of my list. A functioning and loving body of Christ. Probably not perfect, but a church that can really become my family, a place to serve and grow. I really feel hopeful and positive about the church I’ve been going to. I say “going to” loosely though, as I’ve been more staying than going. I’d only attended two or three times before I broke my toe. I’ve only been back once since then. I went back about a month ago, after I felt like I could stand up on my feet long enough to navigate attending church with three kids by myself. And since then, we’ve had a variety of setbacks in going.
I really NEED to go next Sunday. I’m a toe, in need of a body. You know what happens when a toe gets cut off from a body? It’s not pretty. I need a body. I’m praying for no more setbacks. I’m praying for overcoming any hurdles that arise to prevent us from going. I’m praying for no illnesses, no sleep issues in the middle of the night before, no nothing. I. Need. To. Go.
I’m also hoping and praying that this will be the church that God uses to draw my husband back into church with me, the church that James will find appealing and acceptable. Kind of like the body with nine toes, I know I can survive if that never happens, because God will always be there, and He’ll always get me through it. But like the body with a tenth toe in pain, life would be more complete, functional, and dare-I-say less painful, if that tenth toe was happy and healthy and fully a part of the body. The toe would be happier too, don’cha know. It works both ways.
When all the members of the body are healthy and working together and functioning appropriately, the whole body is happy and healthy. And that is true of so many things, in so many ways.