Magazine article The Christian Century

Bodily Blessings

Magazine article The Christian Century

Bodily Blessings

Article excerpt

Last winter I spent five weeks on a catheter. The enlarged prostate that required this device is a condition unique to males, but catheterization is something experienced by both males and females. The experience left a variety of lasting impressions on me. Mainly I felt older and more vulnerable, and with the vulnerability came humiliation and, I hope, some increased humility.

The first time I walked out of a clinic carrying a Foley catheter bag, I was extremely self-conscious, to say the least, though other patients, with their own worries, probably paid little attention. There I was toting a bag the size of a purse. Winding into it, up from my ankle, was the transparent, urine-filled plastic piping the diameter of my little finger. It might as well have been a blinking yellow tube of neon.

There were some complications on the road to recovery, but let's keep the story short and simply say that laser surgery eventually and successfully addressed the problem. How sweet was the moment when, the catheter removed, I was able to again urinate on my own. I heard myself whispering enthusiastically, with no hint of disrespect or irony, "Thank you, Jesus!"

What an earthy, elemental, taken-for-granted thing it is: to pee on your own. At the time it seemed perfectly meet and right to offer up praise for this activity. And on reflection, I've not changed my mind a bit. I'm not saying we should be obsessed about our bathroom habits (as some Hollywood movies are). I am saying a fully Christian spirituality is bodily spirituality and makes a place for the occasional, quiet celebration of urination.

First, take to heart a fundamental Christian (and Jewish) conviction: that God created our bodies, and they are good. Consider beyond that the Christian belief that God in Christ took on our flesh--all of it, the indecorous as well as the decorous. Then take yet a third step to realize that God never gives up on our bodies, that they will finally be resurrected to glory.

These are bedrock orthodox affirmations. The Gnostic Valentinus, early in the church's history, could not completely take them to heart. "Jesus endured all things and was continent," Valentinus said. "He ate and drank in a manner peculiar to himself, and the food did not pass out of his body. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.