Sunday, August 28, 2016
Life as a Capillary
Do you ever get something running through your head that just won't give up? It's like having an earworm, one of those annoying tunes that seems to play over and over and over again until you are so thoroughly sick of it you never want to hear it again and yet it continues to play.
Today I had something like that, only it was a bit different. I was sitting at my desk, trying to read on my computer monitor with two cats who insisted on being between me and the screen, and to take notes for an online class that I am taking. The subject was the circulatory system, which, God knows, has umpteen million arteries, veins, capillaries, and the like. Of course, then you have to learn the structures that make up these things and their position in the circulatory system. Unlike some friends of mine, I'm learning a foreign language, or rather relearning a foreign language, and a lot of detail I haven't thought about in probably half a century.
So, as I went systematically (no pun intended) from the coronary arteries to the digital (finger-type, not numerical-type) veins, I had to remember that there are a lot of other parts that make the veins and arteries work. Without the heart, the circulatory vessels are useless because there is nothing for them to do. Without the vessels, the heart can't send the blood where it needs to go to keep the muscles and organs and various pieces and parts working together to keep us alive.
Capillaries are the smallest vessels in the circulatory system and it is they who feed the oxygen-enriched blood to and remove the waste from individual cells and areas to be sent back to the heart and then out for cleaning. They're tiny enough to fit in very small spaces where individual cells need the support and yet large enough to join together with arteries and veins and keep everything flowing smoothly and as it should.
The thought that kept running through my head was the scripture where Paul talks about the body having many members, meaning many parts that make it work. Paul was acquainted with the obvious parts of the body, but probably had very little anatomical knowledge of how things worked or even the presence of some organs, muscles, and the like. Still he got the point across, "For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body…" (1 Corinthians 12:12).
It reminded me of a time when we were talking about that particular verse, and I remember asking group members what parts of the body did they see themselves as being. Got some interesting answers on that one, everything from eyes to hands to feet and a few things in between. When my turn came, I announced I wanted to be a capillary because even though capillaries are very small and pretty much invisible, they serve the cells around them as other, larger vessels cannot do. A person can live without an eye, or hand, or foot, even a kidney or reproductive organ, but the body still needs the tiny structures to work efficiently. It's a humble, but necessary, job.
Paul equated parts of the body with abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts. He made the point that if the body were nothing but eyes, it couldn't function because it was be lacking other necessary parts to keep it fed, mobile, and healthy. If the body were all arms or legs but didn't have a brain, the arms and legs would just hang, doing nothing. While there are some parts we can do without, optimally the body is formed and populated by the precise number of cells, organs, muscles, and systems so that it functions efficiently and well.
Paul, of course, was speaking of the church as a body, and its people as the arms, legs, eyes, ears, and the whole bit. Each person, like each part of the body, has its own strengths and weaknesses, abilities and lack of abilities, duties to perform, and all dependent on the gifts they have been given and their willingness and ability to do those duties. It's easy to say, "I can't do that, so I'm no use to the church." Even if the job given is an ability to sweep the floor so thoroughly that not a bit of dust remains, the church still needs that kind of person, that kind of body part to make it work. We can't all the priests, preachers, financial advisers, Sunday school teachers, or even musicians, but there is always a place where our particular part of the body can work for the good of the whole.
So think about it. What's your job in the body of Christ? What body part when you say you were and why? Knowing there is room for all different kinds of body parts in the church and in the body of Christ, what is preventing you from claiming your job, your calling, and your duty?
Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, August 27, 2016, under the title "Are You a Capillary?"