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The Body’s Narrative

January 24th, 2012 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

When I sat down to write Earthen Vessels, one of my hopes was to explore the body in its relationship to time and our own personal narratives.  That, like many of my hopes, was dashed upon the rocks as I set about the writing.  I couldn’t figure out the best way to jam it in, only one of the book’s many inadequacies.

But leave it to a friend, Father David Baumann, to write an absolutely lovely meditation that expresses it all quite better than I might have:

I can only imagine what Jesus’ body was like. It is easy to assume that his hands bore calluses and scars from carpentry, that his feet were hard from much walking, his muscles were corded, and his skin darkened by frequent exposure to the sun.

The skin of a young child is like a blank canvas. Life’s adventures are few at that age. Human skin is a medium on which is written the tales of one’s life. Take the thought deeply enough and one can become immersed in the meaning of Jesus’ incarnation—the word, literally translated, means “in the meat.”  God himself took our flesh, and had skin as we have, and it came to bear the marks of his divine life on earth. Go even farther, and one comes to resurrection—the destiny of the believer’s body on the far side of death. The resurrected body becomes perfect, yet surely will be recognizable through its direct connection with this life.

Once my skin was as flawless as that of the child I bathed, but now my scars, wrinkles, and blemishes tell the unique tale of my life, every mark on my body evidence of some adventure or escapade, even if just the adventure of living for more than six decades in the world. “My body shall rest in hope,” says Psalm 16:9b. My body, such as it is, also lives in hope. Jesus shared my human nature, and shares it still. In my love for him, I await the consummation in the greatest adventure of all.

 “Human skin is a medium on which are written the tales of one’s life.”  I could not more perfectly put the point.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.