The Word Became Flesh

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” John 1:14a (NIV)

Have you ever stopped to ponder that statement?  Of course, it’s a truth that changed the world and all of history … but it is also a truth that should also change the way we live and the way we understand and interact with our bodies.

Jesus became flesh and indwelt a human body.  This means that God found the human body something worthy enough for the Living God of Universe to indwell.

And that’s totally the opposite of what I’ve learned about the body from church (meaning the church at large, not any particular church).  My experience has been that the church has taught us that the body can’t be trusted.  Through its silence on the subject and even through its words, the church has taught that the body is bad.  In fact, the only teachings I have heard from the church about the body is either (1) a whole bunch of “don’ts,” and/or (2) that the body is flesh … and flesh is bad.

Really!?

This isn’t just semantics.  God created the human body, and He called very good.  In fact, He made us in His image!  (See Genesis 1:27-31).  Can we do bad things with our bodies?  Of course!  (Just as we can do bad things with our minds and our souls). Does that make the body inherently bad?  No.  No it doesn’t.

Remember, the Word became flesh.

How many sermons have you heard that tell you what you should do with the body God gave you (instead of what you shouldn’t do)?  I’m not sure I have heard any.  And we all learn better through encouragement and training toward how we should behave and act, as opposed to constant nagging about how we shouldn’t.

I’m just saying.  The Word became flesh.  The Living God indwelt a human body that He made and found worthy.  Shouldn’t you view it similarly?

Oppositional Training

“[T]he land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys ….” Deuteronomy 11:11 (NIV)

If you’ve done any strength training, you’ve learned the principle of oppositional training. To really strengthen any muscle group, you have to strengthen the opposing muscle group. If you want to strengthen your biceps, for example, you need to also strengthen your triceps. If you want to grow your quadriceps, you also need to grow your hamstrings. To train effectively, you have to train in opposition.

Interestingly, the rest of life is like that too.  We cannot have pleasure, for example, without pain (otherwise it would all seem the same and all feel neutral). We cannot have highs without lows, or as the writer of Ecclesiastes so adeptly put it, we cannot have laughter without tears or dancing without mourning (see Ecc. 3:4).  It is the order that God created.  We cannot achieve great heights without going through great valleys.

Problems arise, of course, when we ignore the principles of oppositional training. When we want large biceps, for example, but don’t like the triceps exercises … so we don’t do them much. Not only do we become out of balance, but we can’t achieve the results we really desire when we deny the way in which God made things.

Of course, I see myself in this paradox frequently. I would much prefer to avoid great pain, sadness, loss or mourning.  I’d much prefer avoid, deny, repress or run away from that side of life.  But I am learning that even God’s Promised Land had mountains and valleys … and that in His economy, I cannot avoid one without losing the other.

So I am learning afresh the principle of oppositional training.  And it’s hard.  It’s hard to sit in the hard places and remain present and not to rush through or ignore it.  It’s hard.  Really hard sometimes.  But I want the other side.  I endure the valley because I want the mountain-top.  And I strive to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, my example … who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.  (Hebrews 12:2b).

Focus

“It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger.  He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.”  Hebrews 11:27 (NLT)

We don’t have a dog (yet?), but every time I’m at any of my friend’s house that have dogs, I love to watch how the dogs behave in the kitchen.  It’s like the dogs have been trained to watch their master’s hand.  Watching and waiting for the moment when a morsel of food may come their way.  Watching and waiting for a crumb to fall from their master’s table.  Then running to gobble up whatever the master has offered, then waiting and watching for more.

Every time I watch this, I wonder if we are as watchful and attentive to our Master’s hand. And what makes it even more impressive is that no dog-owner has ever intentionally trained their dog to behave this way in the kitchen.  The dogs have trained themselves.

So I must ask: Have we trained ourselves to watch and wait for God’s hand?  Have we trained ourselves to respond automatically and enthusiastically when we see our Master begin to move, and do we enjoy His offering to us only to wait and watch for more?

It takes training to watch and wait for God.  It takes training to wait and to move only when we see our Master move.  It takes training to act as if we know that there is a world of difference between His strength and my own. And waiting to do it in His strength and power and timing.

And, just like in the physical realm, training is not a one-time deal.  Training requires practice and repetition.  Lots of it.  Training requires doing it over and over again, each time learning from our mistakes and tweaking our performance.  It means watching and waiting and then acting on promptings … and sometimes falling down, but getting back up because we are keeping our eyes on the One who is invisible.

So where’s your focus these days.  May it be true for you and for me that our focus is increasingly on our Master’s hand.