Sunday, September 26, 2021

I Hope You Don’t Recover

My wife and I were “under the weather” for most of the summer. As a result we did not do many of our normal summer activities. We are trying to make up for it this month while the weather is still warm – like visiting the ocean and the mountains.

She contracted Lyme disease early in the summer and did not have the energy to do much. Fortunately she was diagnosed early, received prompt treatment for Lyme, and is doing well. A while back when someone asked how she was doing, I responded, “She is recovering.”

Later I was thinking about the word “recover.” It seems to imply that during illness something is uncovered that is later covered again - re-covered. In his poem “Mending Wall” Robert Frost muses, “Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.” In like manner I’d like to ask what it is we are uncovering and recovering.

The Greek word for revelation in the New Testament means “to uncover” or “unveil.” It is sometimes transliterated as apocalypse, which is the title of the Book of Revelation. It is literally the Book of Uncovering.  It refers to spiritual truth that had been hidden but is now disclosed.

The Letter to the Colossians speaks of a “mystery that was hidden for ages and generations but is now revealed (uncovered or unveiled)...”  The author, traditionally considered to be the apostle Paul, goes on to say that this uncovered mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Illness can uncover this mystery. “Christ in us” is uncovered when our body fails, especially when illness signals possible death. The veil between the spiritual and the physical – heaven and earth – is lifted a little whenever our mortality is glimpsed.

I am reading an interesting sci-fi novel entitled The Humans by Matt Haig. It is a humorous account of an immortal alien who comes to earth and becomes a human being. He endeavors to learn about humans and discovers that people spend a lot of time trying not to think about their mortality, which is why they tend to handle death so poorly when it approaches.

Illness uncovers the truth of our impermanence. We are confronted with the reality that we are perishable organisms destined to return to the elements. Like those items in our refrigerator, we have an expiration date. This is something most people would rather not contemplate. So we cover it up as soon as we are feeling better and get back to our normal lives.

Perhaps what is uncovered should not be hastily recovered before it is examined. When we do some serious self-inquiry, we get a glimpse of what is beneath the flesh and bones. Illness reveals that we are not what we thought we were. We are more than these earthy bodies.

We discover the treasure hidden within these earthen vessels. We see what Solomon described as “eternity in the hearts of men.” We see what Colossians calls “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We uncover the truth that we are more than physical. In that moment a rebirth or resurrection occurs. As Paul says, “the perishable puts on the imperishable, the mortal puts on immortality” and “death is swallowed up in victory.”

We are not what we thought we were. This is what many people glimpse in Near Death Experiences, and their lives are changed. These bodies are mortal, but we are not. We are what is uncovered when the mortal falls away. This is revealed a little more with every illness and every passing year. That is the gift of aging. It is forgotten every time we “recover,” when we cover up this reality with the old mortal consciousness.

Why recover? Why choose the old wineskins? Why not drink the new wine of our immortal center? The reason why people cover up their true nature is because to embrace it means the death of our self. We are very attached to the self. In fact we mistake the self for who we are. But we are not ourselves. The self is a product of this body/brain and will die with it. But the self will not go gently into the night; it rages against the dying of the light, to paraphrase the great Welshman. It wants to live forever, or at least pretend it will.

But if we slough off the self now like a worn-out garment, as we will one day slough off our bodies, then we can live our selfless lives now. We die before we die, and we see we are Life Itself. We are reborn. Resurrected. We discover who we really are. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” No need to wait for heaven. It is heaven now! Jesus called this Eternal Life and the Kingdom of God. I hope you discover this. I hope you don’t recover.

1 comment:

Sue Tierney said...

I truly enjoy all your posts and I read your book on the Gospel of John which was wonderful. You haven’t posted a podcast in a while. Are you on a break? I hope your wife feels better! Peace, Sue