Who Am I When my Body Fails Me? is a question we all need to ask ourselves when injury or illness takes its toll on our lives. How are we different? How are we the same? How do we respond to mental, physical, and/or spiritual stresses? How do we view God when we are weak or in pain? Below is the most recent of several blogs on this question, several by guest bloggers. Click on Who am I When my Body Fails Me in the Category List to find the rest.
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Sometimes our bodies fail us temporarily. We share the family’s cold or flu. We suffer with tennis elbow or blisters or sprains. We break bones or have ulcers or disintegrating discs or cataracts. Sooner or later our internal organs don’t function as well as they used to. Yet all these issues can improve or heal.
However, the time comes when we recognize that our bodies are progressively over-stressed and weakening. If we are at all introspective and honest with ourselves, we understand that life as we have known it is coming to an end. It seems to me that this passage is similar to the huge transition of moving into the teen-age years or middle age, but we are likely to be better prepared for it – or at least we can be. We can see new opportunities even as our stamina decreases, our balance is impaired, or our hearing fades.
It seems to me that Rainer Maria Rilke, one of the 20th century’s premier poets in the German language, has put his finger on this journey in his poem Widening Circles.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
I believe that a “successful life” is one of ever-widening circles. These circles bring new friends, new ideas, new interests, new schedules, even new behaviors. Eventually, however, we will realize that we will “not complete this last one.” If these circles include ever-widening circles of intimacy with God, we can more easily “give [ourselves]” to our last circle, as Rilke suggests. And if we train to be like Jesus, whose behavior always matched what he believed, we are more likely to be a “great song” than “a storm” at the end of our lives.