I realized it as I was walking through town square earlier this week.
This coffee shop always smells like burnt toast.
These women are old and probably have musty old houses full of cats.
This music sounds like something my elementary school’s PTO would have played at a barbecue.
These petty teenagers think they’re so cool with their disgusting Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.
The logo and branding of that restaurant is a Microsoft standard font. Just, no.
Soon, I’ll be back at my desk to listen to my music and design beautiful things.
In my spirit, I detest, and have vowed never participate in, gossip.
But in my flesh, I’m brimming with judgment about my own world –
particularly, my demeaningly physical world.
There is something so clean and painless about two of my favorite non-physical locations:
the theoretical realm,
and the internet.
I am humiliated to admit it. But my affinity for these “locations” are the bane of my contagious flourishing.
I frequent these places because there’s something that makes me feel so powerful when I can escape the confines of my imperfect body and city and project the best of myself into these spaces.
Online “friendships” allow me to choose which conversations I want to have, which pieces of my reality I’d like to augment, and which of my quirks, scars, sins, and vices I’d like to keep “for my eyes only.”
Meanwhile, theoretical conversations make me feel like I’ve done something pious, because maybe someone somewhere will listen and put my words into action – but hey, I’ve already done my part of telling them what they ought to do.
But there is no musty smell to the internet.
No dishes to do.
No bathroom to share.
No sounds of construction or crying children.
No meals to make and potentially mess up –
or eat too much of in front of people.
No humid, sweaty heat.
No dirty, moldy corners of the floor.
I can care about “those people” by writing about how I care about them,
or even throwing money at someone who (also) cares about them.
There is no blood here,
because there is no
In ancient Hebrew culture, blood
was a symbol of life.
There is no blood here. There is no
I wonder what their feet smelled like when He washed them.
I wonder if the bread and the wine left that pucker-y, thirst-inducing feeling in their mouths, you know that feeling, and that distinct bad breath you get from drinking tart wine four times betwixt bites of fishy meat and bitter herbs.
I wonder if the man whose 12-year-old daughter died was fat and hairy, or if their decorations were gaudy, and if Jesus was tired when he walked in.
I wonder what it means that Jesus on the cross —
whipped, beaten, and divinely forsaken —
both spiritually and, yes, physically,
really was, in the words of R.C. Sproul,
“the most repulsive thing ever in the world.”
Is it too harsh to say I’m repulsed by the physical? I’d like to say yes.
…I’d like to.
When an entire aspect of holistic life becomes repulsive to me, I have a problem.
When I moved to the East Coast, I suddenly found myself in a church community that cared about the environment and their local town. There was even a time when I worried I couldn’t become a member at this church because I am not actually even living in the city they’re actively committed to being a presence within. (Read: That time in fact has not ended.)
Now, strangely, I find myself being ethically challenged by buying eggs packaged in styrofoam, because this community is demonstrating to me what it physically means that I’m called to take care of the earth and its creatures, and to bring order to its chaos.
I admit that I started doing these things initially because they were presented to me in two ways:
1. As something that would make my life stand out among everyone else’s.
2. As a way I could change the whole world and take action!!!
Those are the things I’m drawn to.
My practical life isn’t often these things.
So if I can make it so buying the right kind of foods makes me feel different and important? I’m in.
Of course, the problem isn’t that I’m conscious of my consumption. It’s why.
Sometimes, I cheat on the real Jesus with the Jesus who is cool, different, and important.
I hear things about Him, perhaps even intentionally phrased with such an intent, that make me feel cool, different, and important for being a Christian – no, for being the specific flavor of Christian that I am – and I use this flavor to make Jesus in my own clean and exciting, yet humble and justice-oriented, image.
But is my flavor of Christianity really the best flavor, since it’s obviously the most current, relevant, and world-changing flavor? I mean, what kind of mark am I actually leaving?
Are my town, my workplace, and my family really much different as a result of how, and notably, where I spend my time?
I like to spend my time in the theoretical.
And on approximately three digital conversations throughout the day.
(Not on the Samaritan’s side of Maple Street.)
But there is something humiliating about the physical realm.
Call me a neat freak, but I don’t think I’m alone in being repulsed by the physical:
How many of us like talking about racial issues, yet we don’t know our actual racially-different neighbor who lives 2-5 houses down?
How many of us has a friend or potential love interest living in another state, because it was more convenient to find them on the internet than at a physical location?
How many of us say we care about the economy and the environment, yet buying local, participating in city cleanups, or being conscious of where our food and clothing come from – all sound like foreign concepts?
How many of like to talk, read, and write about things that “matter” to us, but secretly hope someone else will passionately step forward to do the dirty work?
Tonight, I’m not so much afraid of the physical as I am afraid I/we have detached ourselves from the local to the point of gnosticism.
Gnosticism is an ancient heretical belief that what we do with our bodies is completely separate from our spiritual life. Practical gnosticism is the reality that we like gnostics without having to identify as such.
For us today, practical gnosticism can take many forms. It can mean not loving our actual neighbor because we’d rather pick and choose who is our neighbor. It can be as subtle as allowing our income to determine our neighbors. It can mean attempting to separate our spiritual, social and political life from our second life where we indulge in habitual sexual sin.
There’s something cool and unique about the realm I’d like to see myself in.
But there is something humiliating and divine about the physical realm.
And my manipulated reality tends to lack these things my soul was made for.
So if you get anything from this post, get this:
A life of Christian wholeness and influence is
the same way hugging a sweaty person is
when your shoulder unwittingly lands in their armpit.
What I mean is this: What we do in this demeaningly physical world… means something.
Not merely symbolically.
Jesus commanded His disciples to physically chew on and swallow communion because, in a tangible and symbolic way, it means something.
God commanded the Israelites to make specific buildings and decorations in specific ways because, as strange and as gaudy as they were, these things meant something.
Jesus commands us to partake in, and abstain from, specific things, because, whether we want our physical behaviors to mean something spiritual or not, they mean something.
When the so-called “body of Christ” is physically absent from one another and from the world, it means something, and it leads all people in a bad direction.
Yet when we are bodily present in our own lives… wholeness begins to materialize,
and the corporeal kingdom draws physically and chronologically near.
As I wrap up this post, I need to call on supernatural help not to feel like my work is done by talking about this stuff, well, theoretically on the internet! I need His help to get to know (read: meet) my actual neighbors, and to keep up the will to even do so.
Lord, ready me to live
in this village
like my tired,