I am grateful for a physical body. In all their variety, each is a precious gift from God, for which I #GiveThanks. Generated by a long line of mortal ancestors in a fallen world, some of these variations are conventionally regarded as imperfections, limitations, and even disabilities, and in fact each body will eventually cease to function altogether and return to the dust. Yet in due time we will be clothed upon once again, not on loan, but in permanent legacy; not by way of temporary probation, but in the power of an endless life, according to our preparation.
I care probably too much about my body, and always have, from my earliest memories. I rejoice in its capacities, and fret over what I perceive to be its infelicities and imperfections. Hoping to make the most of what my momma gave me, I spend a lot of time at the gym! (Not as much as I used to, but still… I know exercise can be an unpleasant chore for many, but it is better with friends. Many thanks to fellow participants and fellow instructors who make group fitness such an enjoyable and renewing element of my daily life!)
Our bodies dominate our present experience. Upon birth, a newly arrived spirit hardly knows what to make of a state it has never yet experienced. It cries out and flails about uncontrollably. In time we learn instead to talk intelligibly and walk gracefully. Moreover, as the changes in personality accompanying the universal hormonal transition from childhood through adolescence attest — and as occasional psychiatric challenges and their pharmacological remedies illustrate — the physical biology and chemistry of our body and brain also impact enormously our interior experience and sense of self, urging desires upon us, shaping our moods and feelings, and influencing our perceived identity.
Even so, we are more than our bodies. A primary purpose of this life is for our immortal spirit to gain the mastery, to learn to make the body an instrument of our mind rather than allow the mind to become a slave to the body. In the use and abuse of our bodies we sometimes exhibit moral flailing about reminiscent of the physical flailing about of a newborn infant. God understands the magnitude of the challenge, the degree of difficulty, for He came into the world to experience and overcome it Himself firsthand. He is full of grace and truth: He is deadly serious about moral law, but He is patient and kind as we learn by precept, example — and, most importantly, experience, sometimes hard experience. God — or let us say, our heavenly parents — are on our side every bit as much as any human mother and father encouraging and rejoicing in a child’s first stumbling steps. I witness that the Lord’s grace and power are always on offer, to lift us up and heal our spiritual skinned knees and bruised heels — and even our more serious spiritual lacerations, piercing wounds, and gushing broken hearts — if we will look to Him, reach for His outstretched hands, and accept His embrace.
By and by, death and the grave will yield up their captive bodies, and hell and paradise will release their captive spirits. By the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel, they will be restored one to the other — our bodies in perfect frame, and our minds with a perfect understanding of what we have done and become, as we stand before Him in the infinite love manifest in His infinite justice and mercy. Man is spirit; the elements are eternal; and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy. That we may so understand our bodies, and therefore learn to care for, govern, and use them with clean hands and pure hearts for virtuous and noble and even divine purposes, is my hope and prayer.