My sister and her classmates named him Bruce. He was a person, and that day I saw him, he was a body. You see my sister was studying her assigned cadaver in medical school. This process of paying close attention to every tiny piece of Bruce meant the world to my sister. She lit up talking about Bruce and the amazing truths of how our bodies work. How intricately we are designed. I remember one day she described the aorta to me. I had a basic understanding of anatomy, but no real understanding, you see. And this is coming from someone who is made up of anatomy.
Do you sometimes look at your hands and think, wow look what I can do and they are moving before you know it? The other day I noticed the veins in my hands were more swelled after showering because it is a body temperature regulation thing they do, my sister informed me. I could not stop looking at my veins and imagining blood running through them. Bodies really are amazing.
Back to the aorta—it is the big deal artery that takes oxygenated blood from the left ventricle of the heart down to the abdomen and eventually splits in two and well there’s way more to it, but you probably didn’t come for a science lesson. She told me that the aorta could have a diameter as big as a golf ball in some people. She held up her thumb and forefinger to show me the size of the average aorta. I had never thought about it before, but when I imagined the blood pumping from my heart in such a big vessel, my eyes watered up with that magic stuff called tears. My sister looked at me and realized I was having a moment. We both agreed the body is a beautiful gift. And as a gift to my sister, I decided I would take the unprecedented and probably only opportunity to take a look at Bruce, with permission of course. I was scared. I have a weak stomach, and I just didn’t know what to think about looking at a body. Before walking into the lab, I put a mask on with a few drops of a good smelling oil to help calm my weak stomach preparing for the onslaught of chemicals and decay smells. When Bruce was uncovered though, I found myself in awe. No smell could stop me now. I was invested. Bruce had invested his whole body for me in this one moment. Now, this body had been dissected quite a bit, so I will say I was not prepared to see the skin on the legs without the moisture it had retained until they had inspected each piece of the leg. This might sound a little untoward, but that skin reminded me of dried pig skin or jerky or something. It was profoundly strange. As I looked at the whole body, I was honestly could not retain my excitement to see the inside of a human. That week, the skull had been divided in half to inspect the brain and other organs. Do you know what I remember? Not much science, but the sinus cavities left a mark on my memory, as one who suffers from many sinus/allergy issues. More than that, were the little lines etched in the skull from blood vessels. It looked like a fossil of where water ran or like a bird’s eye view of a dried up river. I imagined the river paths my blood vessels must be making on my very own bones. I held the pieces of the skull together as my sister carefully and reverently wrapped his head together until the next session with her lab group. It was over before I knew it, and I didn’t even notice any smell. I will always be grateful for that singular experience.
Last week, I shared about some self-protective tendencies.
It’s been studied that to strengthen our immune systems, they need to be challenged and nourished. To gain muscle, we have to work them so they hurt a little bit with the stress on them. Kids need to be exposed to dirt and not live in super hygienic homes because it builds their immune systems to fight against the environment around them. Do you remember your legs aching when you were growing? We all know this idea of growing pains, right? Growth and pain are somehow connected, aren’t they?
Why would this be the way it is? I don’t know all the answers, but I find it fascinating that God would use suffering and sorrow in our lives to bring us to maturity. Have you ever read the allegorical story, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard? I don’t want to give it away, if not, but I will say it’s about a young woman named Much Afraid and she must make the journey away from her Fearing family and into the High Places of the Good Shepherd, guided by her two companions Sorrow and Suffering. My gut ached when she her disappointment was evident in the story that these were the two companions given to her. I really don’t want to give away the twist, but I will say, she does reach the High Places and just as she transforms into a more beautiful name made healed and complete, so will they.
What does this have to do with Garden Protection, even metaphorically, you might be asking?
Once I heard that most leaves have this little layer of skin-like protection that help strengthen them from getting gravely damaged. I have been thinking there is something to this skin that must be the stuff that catches the light when the wind blows the leaves in the trees. I’ve always loved watching the dappled light gleam from the different trees in the landscapes of my life. I also heard that the self-protection of different plants end up being the good stuff that we nourish our bodies with. The plants are stressed and fight with building up these anti-oxidants, and then we eat them and absorb these powerful anti-oxidants. There can be good things that come from being attacked. Last week, I mentioned the Evil one, the enemy that does not want us to know we are in a spiritual battle. Do not be afraid, dear one, but trust in Jesus. He is your Champion and Defender.
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I wanted to end this three part section on Garden Protection. I don’t have all the answers. I have a good Shepherd, a good Gardener, a good Friend, a good Father, a God who will be with me all of the way. If we can find ourselves trusting Him, we will reach full maturity, bear good fruit, and no longer need acceptance and love from anyone else. Of course, God is extra gracious at sharing his love through human relationships too, but we start to realize this love ALWAYS protects. Always. Always. Always.
And that just makes me want to worship. If we aren’t praising and worshipping Him, are we understanding this love at all? Are we made up of the anatomy of the love, but not paying closer attention to see the very big pipeline of love that Jesus provides from the heart of the Father. Those hands with really blood running through his veins? Those eyes alive with knowing and seeing?
I don’t know much about who Bruce was alive, but I know the seed of his body cracked open for me and started sprouting this beautiful assurance that God only makes masterpieces. Every piece of our body built to be challenged, grown, and protected. I imagined when Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with leaves, God must have mourned so deeply and loved so completely to give them covering of real skin. He knew that would just be the foretaste of the real skin he would give them one day through Jesus. The only true protection, made of the real stuff. The stuff that does not decay or fade away. I take comfort in the fact that Jesus made our bodies in such a way that He could become incarnate and dwell in a body forever. What does that mean for us and our future hope? I don’t know exactly but I know one thing, He is nearer than my skin. And that is all the protection I truly need.
I do declare these words to you from the 1st letter from Paul to the Corinthians chapter 13 verses 1-12
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Protection can come in so many forms, but if we are not ultimately protected by the love of Jesus, it won’t matter. I pray we will be expecting His love to carry us on each day, even when we are tempted to despair, give up, or not believe. I wrote this poem this past week when I could not get out of bed. I remembered a walk a few days earlier where I looked for a rainbow but found none. I want to pay closer attention to a God who will always provide a rainbow with His good promises to us. IF you want to fight the good fight and be protected, I suggest fervently holding onto His promises and having your Spritiual armor on with the help of Christ through His Holy Spirit and a whole lot of prayer. I am praying for you and I would ask for prayer from you today that everything I do be guided by His love. Here is my poem:
I expect rainbows even when the rain pours down,
I expect rainbows even when I feel like a clown,
I expect rainbows even when I see everyone frown,
I’ve seen them before so surely they’ll come,
I have a God where promises come from,
But today the rainbow didn’t come after the rain,
I couldn’t see it any where I looked,
So I’ll sit here and read my book of the cover red,
And take in the orange morning light that is graciously shed,
And then open my bright yellow door to greet the neighbor’s smiles,
And skip in the green weedy grass with the carefree dogs for miles and miles ,
And see that blue sky that is constant only in its changing,
Always always always rearranging,
And I remember my friend who only paints in indigo,
She gave me vision for what life could be,
Tomato soup with friendly Greeks at the tiny cafe,
Smiling at strangers on the Corner to make their day,
Even when your wrists hurt and things don’t go your way,
And now the wild violets in the garden don’t bother me so,
Because all of it has built a fully complete rainbow,
Even when the sky said, for now, no.
I’d like to pray for us today,
Jesus, would you please help us expect your love to be enough to protect us?
Would we take the steps you have for us to bear good sweet fruit?
Would you give us eyes to see and ears to hear your message to us today?
Would you show us the beauty of your real body with real skin and real blood that conquered death and sin?
You are so powerful and you give us joy and peace because you love us.
How amazing are your masterpieces, you Grand Creator,
Thank you for tending to us to make sure we are matured in your Love.
May we do the hard things knowing you are with us all the way.
May we find refuge in you today and every day, our Rock and Redeemer.
We love you Jesus, help us love you more.
Ps. Listen to the episode here.
Check out the beautiful talks from the Anselm Society's conference Imagination Redeemed.