“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”
Psalm 139: 14-16
It seems that my body might be very good at Where’s Waldo, that kids’ game where you have to look over a scene in order to pick out the tiny guy who is hiding somewhere. He just blends in too well with his surroundings.
Not so with my finger. In the process of handling lumber I got a tiny sliver, which seems to happen a lot. I ignored it because it is part and parcel of the dents and dings I get on my hands in the process of doing things. But my body did not ignore it. It is strange that something so tiny would shout out so loud to announce its presence. A tiny sharp irritation would radiate from my finger that seemed out of proportion to the injury.
Over the course of three weeks I watched the healing process, vaguely fascinated. There was a progression, a subconscious intent that my body was accomplishing all on its own. It was repelling an invader. There is nothing particularly dangerous about a tiny sliver. And yet the body knows enough that it does not belong, that all systems swing into concert in an effort to deal with it. It is something we should be glad about. It would be exhausting to have to deal with such sympathetic systems in a conscious manner. Your brain would be busy all day identifying aliens and figuring out ways to expel them.
First of all, the area became red and irritated. It swelled up, the presence of red blood cells rushing in to kill any bacteria that might have punctured the epidermis. I understand from my daughters that there is something very miraculous about this on a micro level. Cells called microphages have tiny receptors which accurately seek out invaders. They surround the bacteria, enclose it in an impenetrable sheath, and kill it. Once neutralized, the invader is expelled from the body.
I watched this happen. Skin grew around the sliver and in a process of replacement, wrapped it in a knot of tissue and moved it to the exterior of my skin. At about three weeks I noticed a tiny black speck pointing outward. My body had successfully moved the sliver to the point were it was going to be expelled all on its own. Pretty good for something that I did not plan and did not have to think about.
Your body is so smart that it also can create problems. There is a difficulty if your body identifies a part as foreign and rejects it. This issue radiates through the efforts of those who want to design prosthetics or transplant one heart in place of another. It can be that your body lives with an implanted organ for a long time and then suddenly rejects it, knowing on some mysterious level what is and is not its own.
Jesus said, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your hand offends you, cut it off. It sounds extreme but I think I understand what he was getting at. There are things which do not quite fit with our humanity. Knee jerk reactions that cause damage, bad habits, and things we don’t think through that are simply stupid. It’s not that we don’t know what we want, it’s more accurately that we often want the wrong things.
Saint Augustine said that we are undone in our humanity by disordered desires. We do not desire what is best for us badly enough, and what is good for us we often reject. And yet our spirit strives within us on some subconscious level to be at peace with our Creator. Most people do not consiously consider the idea of God. We are busy and have things to do. Spiritual understanding is something that may only arrive after a lot of life has passed under the bridge.
Our body knows enough to identify an enemy and to deal with it promptly. It surrounds and expels the invader. Oh, the wisdom of those invisibles we take for granted! If nothing else, they teach us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made just as David expressed in Psam 139, knit together in secret places in our mothers’ wombs, with methodology and purpose built in that far precedes our spirit and our knowing.
Fearfully and wonderfully made, our body teaching us wisdom in the process.