I hurt my back while lifting weights at the gym last week. Not bad, just a pulled muscle, enough to put some unpleasant pain into my normal day spent hunched over a laptop. I was doing a shoulder press near the end of my workout and something just went wrong. First response: I'm 27, for crying out loud. I'm young and healthy and spry, I work out regularly, stretch, eat reasonably well - how could this happen to me?
Second response (after some more reasoned thought put on it): Sweet Kelly Clarkson I'm 27 years old. I'm going on 30. I will, some day in the next three years, be three decades OLD. I'm saying this with the same gravitas as that morbid kid in the movie What About Bob who is obsessed with the fact that "I am going to die...its going to happen." I'm finally at that age where you actually injure yourself doing stupid every day stuff, and you don't get better right away, you actually have to rest to get over things. I got old. er.
There's the little physical ailments that come and go, the flu, and whatnot. But then there are the other things that effect a person day-in and day-out. I don't have perfect vision - I have to wear glasses. I've got a trick knee on one side from too many bang-ups. Both of my thumbs have been dislocated multiple times and I no longer have the normal ligaments in them that most people do. And of course I have my hearing condition, explained in detail here, last year. Speaking of my condition always makes me thankful for the fact that I don't have a really serious one, like some people do. I remember when I first started seeking advanced treatment for it, they sent me in for MRI's, "to ensure that brain tumors were not the cause of the nerve disturbance." See if that won't make you think twice. So now I have pictures of the inside of my (for the most part healthy) head.
But the ear thing is nonetheless a condition, one that I'd be much happier to go without. Paul had a condition - and while we can only speculate as to its nature, we know that he would have rather gone without his, as well:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
While I think that Paul's reasons for the physical ailments that we know in our lives are good and right, I think perhaps there might be just a bit more in there than just what he touches on. You see, the things that are wrong with my body serve to remind me that, some day, not too far off, I am going to die. And in the next life, I'll have a body, but it will be perfect. One without bad joints or hearing problems.
New heaven and a new earth. Some day God's power will no longer be made perfect in my weaknesses, but his grace will be complete and I will be strong in perfection, rather than weakness. And I'm blessed with a daily reminder that this isn't all there is - that even though I'm getting older and more run-down by the day, I'm getting nearer to perfection.