My November, 2018 column in The Catholic Free Press.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19
I have not been a good caretaker of my body. While I did not abuse it with alcohol or drugs, I did neglect it. And as I enter my senior years, my body is whimpering to me with an assortment of aches and pains that reflect my neglect.
That neglect became entrenched over my lifetime, fed by discouragement and negativity (also known as sloth), convincing me that I could not lose weight nor keep my body in good physical condition. I pictured sloth as elephants sitting on my chest, preventing me from moving.
My run-down temple, which houses the God of the universe, was in need of restoration.
A few years ago, I got one elephant to move away but not due to my efforts alone. I needed the Holy Spirit to spur me on. I credit my weight loss of thirty pounds over the course of a year to one moment where I took the time to pray the rosary during adoration. In that moment, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, inspired me with ideas and then gave me the strength to carry them out. That elephant is now banished from my temple.
One elephant remained and this one would prove to be most stubborn, until recently. Again, I credit the Holy Spirit with the change, but the beginning of that intercession was not so easy to pin down.
I had been praying for my husband to take care of his temple. Overeating, smoking and lack of exercise resulted in a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes along with the beginning stages of COPD. My husband had three elephants that needed to be banished. It seemed impossible and it was, by human standards. Slowly however, they began to move on through the grace of God. The elephant of smoking moved first, chased away by a session of hypnosis. The result however was weight gain and spikes in blood sugar, in effect, strengthening the other two elephants. My husband was discouraged.
Patience and faithfulness to prayer won the day as my husband’s workplace opened up a gym and offered a personal trainer to employees for a fair price. Those elephants of his have been successfully banished; my husband now works out four days per week. He has lost weight, stabilized his blood sugar and feels energized. His temple is being restored.
I envied him; I wanted my last elephant to hit the road too! Because of shoulder and back problems, the only exercise I wanted to engage in was swimming. I had tried the local YMCA which has a beautiful but very popular (and crowded) pool. Being a slow swimmer, it was impossible to do laps with faster swimmers. A conversation with my hairdresser introduced me to the Whitin Community Center with not one but two pools, easing the overcrowding and allowing me the pleasure of swimming in open lanes. Twice per week I swim and pray the rosary, drinking in the many blessings. Slowly my temple is being restored. It will never be a totally fit place for God’s Spirit to dwell but now we are working together to make it a better dwelling place.
One might say all this was a coincidence for in the course of a few weeks, my husband and I had managed to throw off the sin of sloth and begin taking care of our bodies. I do not believe in coincidence however. These actions were too beautifully executed for them to be pure chance. God’s Holy Spirit, deigning to dwell in our run-down, beaten up, neglected temples, was waiting for the word from us to begin the restoration process. In some cases that word was given by praying for ourselves; in other cases, through intercessory prayer. But prayer along with desire to please God, was the key. While it takes little effort on our part to give that word, the patience needed to wait for the answer takes faith. That wait was rewarded.
I enjoy thinking back on how God’s grace has worked so brilliantly, showing yet again that all things are possible. We have to recognize that God’s vision is infinite while ours is limited. As we cannot see how our lives will work out, we must trust in God’s vision for He does see. And since He is all good, what can go wrong? In the end, all indeed will be well.
St. Teresa of Avila once said, “Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours.” A healthy body is needed to fulfill that directive. Taking good care of our temples makes that work possible.
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