Monday, February 19, 2007
From Flu to Anna Nicole and Back
This my column for the March edition of Temple City Life
I’m So Sick of Being Sick (and Related Thoughts)
If you’re reading this—and obviously you are—there is a chance of one in three that you’ve been sick in the last sixty days. Nationwide new strains of severe colds and flues have put one in three Americans on the sick list since New Year’s. I know. I’ve had two colds and one nasty bout of flu in that time period, and I’m sick of being sick.
I’m sick of wondering how a single human body can manufacture its own weight in mucus. I’m sick of being cold and hot and then cold and hot. It’s like I’m going through “man-o-pause”! I’m sick of having a hacking cough that scares our cat (that’s literally true). I’m sick being bleary-brained (that is, more than usual). I’m sick of keeping Nyquil and his little brother Dayquil in business. Can I get an amen?
Sickness is a reminder of our mortality. A tiny organism, too small to be seen by eye, can put you flat on your back. I really hate those flu bugs. With flu, you go through certain phases. Phase one: no, I can’t get sick. Phase two: OK, I’m sick. Phase three: Please, God, don’t let me die. Phase four: I changed my mind. Let me die. Phase four: Wow, I feel better. Forget the death wish. Where’s the chicken soup?
Now in the midst of all this, Anna Nicole Smith dies after having “flu-like symptoms.” I’ve never been one to pay too much attention to her. Or to Britney Spears. (The other night the fact that she shaved her hair off was the lead on the news. Am I the only one who thinks that’s crazy?) Or for that matter the British royals. Celebrity “news” has never seemed like real news to me. (By the way, do you know what a celebrity is? Someone who’s well known for being famous.)
I read the sad sordid story of Anna Nicole in Newsweek. It made me think of what Dallas Willard says in his book Renovation of the Heart. There is an order of the parts of the human self that is needed for us to be in harmony within, with others and with God. This right order is:
But most of us have that exactly inverted:
A few years ago, after Anna Nicole lost weight, she asked a crowd, “Do you like my body?” Like so many women (and more men than care to admit), her whole self-image was formed by appearance, and she traded her whole life in terms of her body. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
And when I’m felled by flu, suddenly I’m reduced to obsession about my body. (What can I eat and not get sick? When’s the next dosage? Where’s my blanket? Am I running a temperature? Remember to hydrate!) When all I can think about is my body, it’s a sure sign that I’m sick. And when we have a whole society that is wholly focused on the physical, it’s a sure sign of spiritual sickness.
To the extent I think of this poor sad lady, I think of the tragic loss that occurred years ago when she determined that the only way she could be happy was by using her body to control men. That’s the moment she began to die. And now people like Britney Spears just seem to be circling in for a crash landing that we can all see coming.
The ancient wisdom of the Scriptures reminds us that life is found when priorities are right. “Seek first God’s kingdom, and His righteousness,” says Jesus, “and all the other things of life will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) That sounds like real health—spiritual health—to me.