Most of the things I believe to be true about the spiritual life have parallels in natural life. For me, that makes nature scripture.
Taking just a brief detour from using the narratives of the canonical scripture to talk about some observations that I have had regarding a natural phenomenon.
That phenomenon is germs.
I feel like I have been sick most of month. Anyone who knows me well or has read my stuff for a long time knows that being sick is a huge emotional trigger for me. One of the darkest periods in my life happened in the midst of a long illness and sickness and depression tend to walk hand in hand for me.
It has gotten better, in recent years. One of the ways that it has gotten better has been to repeat a very simple, and somewhat simplistic mantra:
“This is my body doing what it is supposed to do”
I spent most of Friday and Saturday battling the highest fever I’ve had in awhile. In the midst of the achy-ness and chills, I tried to imagine my body as a battlefield. A fever is something of a “scorched earth” approach to warfare, burning everything in sight in hopes that you’ll happen to torch the invading infection at the same time.
The body does some unsavory things to fight infection. That’s why we so often err on the side of prevention. Still, our immune systems are miraculous. Coughing to loosen phlegm, trapping bacteria in snot and then sneezing to force it out, and of course making itself inhospitable via fever. We would rather avoid these things because they feel unpleasant and generally trigger our disgust reflexes, but they are a part of the system. Maybe working with people who have immunodeficiencies has changed my perspective on things a bit, but I can be grateful during my illnesses now in a way I haven’t been able to in the past.
This is my body doing what it is supposed to do.
Emotions, I’m discovering, are like the immune system of the spirit. The experiencing of them often feels terrible, yet they are critical for our healing. Mourning is especially distasteful to us at times, and yet without it, grief grows unchecked. The scary thing about our emotional immune system is that it often allows things to lay dormant. Or perhaps a better way of putting it, we’re better at numbing the symptoms. Learning to pay as much attention to our emotional symptoms as clearly as well as we listen to our physical symptoms seems to be one of the great challenges of a lifetime.
It means risking some unpleasantness. It means dealing with our own grossness. A lot of what we dig up will disgust us. It may require professional intervention. And yet to truly be about the business of building up and destroying is to recognize that much of the work required is personal, private work on our own souls in order that we might be healthy enough to touch the world.