Perhaps the most arresting question I encountered when I began exploring how God intends for me to view my body is this:
Are our bodies meant to experience formation, just as our souls are?
It’s the question I’ve been holding in the back of my mind ever since, and I’m going to put it forward as a tentative thesis for this series as we explore its possibilities the rest of this week.
So, here’s the back story.
The question came to mind as I was reading the introduction to Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality. One single, obscure line — half a line, really — brought it about. The line read:
“There is every indication that salvation does not mean getting out of this skin, but being transfigured and glorified in it.”
— p. xi
The line made me think of what will happen in heaven.
As a spiritual formation practitioner, I believe our interior being is meant to form over time, conforming in greater and greater measure into the image and likeness of Christ. Our “work” here on earth is to attend to that formation that God is about in us. We’re meant to participate as God does what God wants to do.
And then, in an instant in heaven, we will be transfigured into something more. Scripture speaks of creation groaning for the full restoration of that day (Romans 8:18-25). It speaks of the substance of our lives being refined in fire on that day so that only what is pure remains (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Peter 1:3-9). It speaks of seeing in a mirror but dimly now, but someday we shall see face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Clearly, something happens to us in heaven that is more than what we experienced on earth and has something to with the people we became while we were here — and the intent is for us to become, while we’re here, all that God intends for us.
Could it be the same for the body?
I think about Jesus and how, upon his resurrection, he inhabited the same body he carried while a mere human. It was a body that could eat fish (Luke 24:41-43). It was a body that still bore the scars of the wounds he sustained on his hands, side, and feet (Luke 24:40; John 20:24-29).
Yes, it was a body that could walk through walls (John 20:19) and even, at times, appeared different than the body his disciples knew when he was alive (Luke 24:13-35; John 20:11-18; John 21:4). But it was also, clearly, a real body, and it was in some measure the same body as the one he had before.
Perhaps in just the same way that who we become in heaven will be different — more full — than who we were on earth but also tied in some way to who we were while here.
And so I am pondering the formation of the body:
What shape are our bodies meant to take?
What might growing in the likeness and image of Christ — in our bodies — mean?
I look forward to exploring these questions here with you the rest of this week.