In Gratitude for Body Parts That Work Like They’re Supposed to


Today I am especially grateful that my left elbow, which got infected on December 14, is regaining mobility and function. It’s amazing what we take for granted when all is going well. Then when we injure some part of our body, or something goes wrong, we are reminded how much we rely on that previously ignored body part.

I have an autoimmune disorder that was diagnosed in 1989. Since then I’ve had many opportunities to appreciate a properly functioning body, as little surprises crop up when I least expect them. The latest episode took place when some calcium deposits in my elbow became inflamed, then infected. I went to the doctor two days later, and she put me on a strong antibiotic and asked me to return two days later so she could assess my progress. She mentioned that I might have to be hospitalized for IV infusion of antibiotics.

That evening I started running a fever, and it went up to 102.1 (pretty high for me, since my body temperature normally is about 97.6). John called the doctor that night, and she asked me to come in first thing the next morning. Fortunately, the antibiotic started working so I didn’t have to be hospitalized. But my arm was swollen from the wrist almost to my shoulder, and I couldn’t bend my elbow enough to be able to put on earrings or roll my hair. John helped me out with those tasks for a couple of days, as well as assisting me with showers. Wouldn’t you know the infection/inflammation was in full force on the day of our church choir’s annual Feast of Lights (our big Christmas music worship service). I managed to hold my folder with my right hand and turn pages with my left.

So I’ve been thinking about the lessons I learned during this time I was physically impaired. Probably the biggest challenge was patience, as it took me nearly twice as long to get dressed each day, plus my elbow just plain hurt.

I thought about people who suffer each day from chronic pain, and I felt empathy for them. It’s hard to be pleasant to others when you’re in pain. I hope I will remember this when I encounter someone who snaps at me. You never know what someone may be going through; all we see are snapshots of people’s lives.

I felt grateful for John’s willingness to pick up some extra work, like loading the dishwasher and cooking and assisting with all sorts of tasks. He did it gladly, and he made me feel loved. My dad, who is living with us right now while going through treatment for leukemia, also was eager to help. He folded laundry and was a comforting presence.

I kept thinking of the passage from 1 Corinthians 12 where the apostle Paul writes about how the parts of the body are like individuals (and each person’s unique gifts) in the church:

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.”

I think this is one of my favorite scripture passages. It reminds me of the wonderful diversity of people and how God designed us all to be different with unique gifts. My hope is that someday Christians will unite in demonstrating “mutual concern” and love for each person regardless of their differences, whether in religious views, gender, political persuasions, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or whatever.

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