At forty-four, I’ve gotten used to a growing number of aches and pains. Sometimes I can trace them back to what I did the day before and sometimes I can only attribute them to the fact that my body is aging.
Having cancer hasn’t really changed the way I see my body, but it has expedited the reality of what I knew would one day be true. It has made my mortality startlingly central to and uncomfortably relevant in my everyday life.
Daily, now, I see myself in the quickness of a flower fading and the expedition of the sun running it’s course around the earth, ushering in the darkness much too soon. The brevity of my life now laces every drink I take, bite I eat, and wink of sleep I fight for.
By day, I used to just be a fitness instructor pushing my body and my classmates’ bodies to perform at their peak, and a mom chasing my busy scooter-riding preschooler through our neighborhood. But now, by day, I’m also a cancer patient spending hours at Mayo Clinic meeting with doctors and undergoing tests, managing messages from my patient portal, feeling the minimal but present pain of the tumor still inside of me, and simultaneously resisting and embracing statistics of recurrence and life expectancy and if/then scenarios.
I see how cancer denies my body of things I once didn’t give thought to. It has developed a voice of its own telling me what I can and can’t do. In the past, if I wanted to do something, it would be a matter of when, but now it’s a matter of if. Cancer steals and destroys not just my cells, but my autonomy. These flesh and bones are still my body, but certain things are not my choice anymore. Cancer takes and breaks because it is the hideous child of sin which has always taken and broken, too.
And try as I might, I can’t do enough strength training physically or spiritually to save myself from this brokenness. I need a Savior and so do you.
So wouldn’t you expect God to send a Man of Steel to rescue us? A man impenetrable by disease, bullets, and the pressures of life? A man having super speed and super strength, who is invulnerable and indestructible?
Instead, God reveals our rescuer isn’t a Man of Steel but, shockingly – and almost appallingly – he is a Man of Sorrows.
“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him ,and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:2,3)
Jesus came to this shattered world as a Man of Sorrows, familiarizing himself with grief because he wanted to relate to us in our grief. And he came clothed in a body, like ours, so he could save us from our brokenness.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity. . .he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that. . .he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:14-17)
He saves us from our sin by the breaking of his own body. “This is my body, which is broken for you.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)
After Jesus’ arrest due to the false accusations against him, the Roman guards started torturing and taunting him. His body bruised with each slap of the soldiers’ hands. His skin ripped with each strip of the whip lashing his back. His blood spilled with the pounding of the sharp nails into his hands and feet. His lungs gasped their last breath with his cry, “It is finished.” His broken body finally succumbed to death like yours and mine will.
But three days later, when his broken body had accomplished the purpose of its suffering for us, he crushed it to the dust and rose from the dead, dressed in a body he earned for himself and us – a body that is indestructible; a body that can never die. And that body reflected on the outside what was true on the inside for him and all who follow him – the defeat of sin and the wholeness brought about by the powerful Spirit that resides in those who believe; a Spirit powerful enough to raise the dead!
So, to those of us who look in the mirror and see scars and ports and bruises from needles and who have IV bags strapped to us like they’re our lifeline, who feel disease and weakness and who face daily brutal reminders of our broken bodies, remember, he doesn’t start with healing our bodies but he doesn’t not heal them either.
He starts his work in the most important place, on the inside. Right now, even with cancer, he is healing my soul with a healing that grows more powerful every day. And one day, what he has restored inside will match with a glorious outward restoration.
Today I can feel comfortable in my own skin knowing someday I’m going to be rid of it like he was. I can live in it and make the best of it, knowing I too will one day thank this broken body for serving me for however many years it can, but then trample it to the dust from which it came and take on an unbreakable, glorified body.
Even though cancer may eat away at my cells from the inside out, because of Jesus, even now his Spirit within me is devouring my mortality until my flesh will be incorruptible.
“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. . .[Cancer] will be swallowed up in victory. . .Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54, 57)