Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Restoration Work on Ageing Temple

Poor thing has taken a lot of abuse over the years.  Structures are basically sound, but very rough around the edges.  Significant wear and tear.  Has been neglected for far too long. 

I turn 33 tomorrow.  I'll be in the 'year of our Lord' - hope that's not as ominous as it sounds! 

I thought that approaching 33 would make me think of how much/little I've achieved in life, or have some big existential crisis.  Instead, I'm trying to make sure 'reparation' work gets done to this rather unworthy temple of the Holy Spirit (my body).  If I don't sort it out now, it'll only get harder to get under control.

The main thrust of this maintenance work is running.  It's free, it's easy, there's no ball to catch, and you can daydream while doing it.  Perfect fit for me!

I don't think I've ever heard a sermon on healthy living based on the doctrine that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Plenty of 'oooh that's naughty' depending on what the preacher was against at the time: smoking, drinking, cavorting etc.

But never against refined sugar, nutritionally empty 'white' carbs, addictive MSG loaded snacks, caffeine overloading ... things that are doing us real, lasting damage.

We can be very selective in our interpretation of Scripture, and cultural glasses filter out lots of otherwise clear messages.  In Scandinavia, so the joke goes, the Norwegian was so shocked to see a Danish Christian drinking beer, that the cigarette fell out of his mouth.

What would an Irish equivalent be?  The Ulster Christian was so shocked to see the Frenchman smoke, the Spaniard drink wine, the Greek dance ... that the fried sausage, bacon and egg feel out of his breakfast soda?  (Stereotyping is so easy ... !  I'm not having a go, really, I have plenty of my own vices - cheese?!) 

Maybe, just as green theology has made an impact on our spiritual values and worldview, we need to be challenged to listen to the Holy Spirit within about the physical state of our temples as S/He inhabits visceral fat and feels the strain on our briny kidneys and choked livers.

Here I go again, I know, I know, and next month it could well be another hobby horse.  But I hope not.  Because if I'm to serve the church, and glorify God in my life, then I don't want to compromise that with self-afflictions caused by lifestyle.

So why are we afraid to preach against transfats and supersized fast foods?  Are we scared we'll make people uncomfortable?  Are we cautious to demonize one issue, especially a very personal, seemingly non-spiritual one?  Or aware that the overweight are probably feeling bad enough without adding guilt to the equation?  Guilt is a very bad motivator, in my experience. 

And it's a complex issue.  How free are we when the food industry manipulates neuroscientific research to get us addicted?  What about the emotional dimension?

The body is amazing, when it is looked after and works well.  Wonderful temples, we are, walking round, little God-breathed creatures, each one unique.  We wouldn't graffiti a church building, or desecrate a sanctuary, or leave a church to gather dust and rot.  It's special.  As are we.

So, my resolution as I enter my 34th year, is to get on with some restoration work: eat right, sleep well, limit caffeine, worry less about things that don't really matter, and keep on running.  Because humans are very, very precious.  And because the Holy Spirit deserves a more appropriate place to live than where I have him cooped up right now.

For better reflected thoughts than these on simplicity and controlling the body, I recommend Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline.

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