I own a 2007 Chevy Malibu. It's nothing fancy, but it's got me where I've needed to go. And it's been remarkably reliable. Besides oil changes and a few minor repairs, I've not had to put much money into it - and it has over 150,000 miles on it. I've felt fortunate.
Until recently. A while back I noticed that the engine was laboring and the rpms were shooting up whenever I climbed a hill, even a small one. Fuel economy dropped precipitously. So I took my car to a mechanic friend to have it tuned up.
Later I had the ignition coils replaced, the fuel injectors cleaned and the oil changed. It was expensive, but I thought my reliable old car was worth it. A few weeks later, though, I turned the key, heard a whirring noise, but there was no ignition. I assumed the starter had failed and had the car towed to the shop.
I stopped in later to see what was going on. My friend met me with the words, "Oh, Shayne," and the kind of look a doctor gives you when your mother has had a heart attack and isn't expected to recover. "It's the timing chain," he explained. The upshot: the upper half of the engine needed to be rebuilt. It took 2,400 dollars, but I got it on the road again.
Sometime later I was on the road in Chicago, merging onto I-294 from I-90. A wall of traffic was approaching, so I pushed the pedal to the floor to get out in front of a speeding semi. It was barreling down on us when the Malibu suddenly lost power. I could almost hear the truck driver swearing as he slammed on his brakes. I limped off onto the shoulder and onto the I-55 entrance ramp. Four hours and 630 dollars later, I had a new catalytic converter and manifold.
It occurs to me that the Malibu is not the only vehicle I have with a fair number of miles on it. Metaphorically speaking, my body has also passed the 150,000 mile mark. It's been a reliable body - not anything fancy - but it's got me where I've needed to go. Besides food and a few minor repairs, I've not had to spend much on maintenance. I feel fortunate.
I've attempted (for a while now, anyways) to take care of my body. I eat well, try to get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. But I know that my body, like my car, will encounter more problems as it racks up the miles. Maintenance costs are bound to go up, and time in "the shop" is sure to increase. Someday the timing chain will break.
I'm not one of those guys who trades in his car every few years. I get everything out of a car that I can, and I intend to do the same with my body. But imagine what the world would be like if medical science were to reach a place where it could provide body trade-ins. The rich would always be operating the latest model. Only the poor would try to make their bodies last.
Were this fantasy ever to become reality, the importance of the body to human spirituality might be forgotten. The body plays an enormously important role in an individual's spiritual formation. It is with the body that spiritual disciplines are performed. It is in the body that habits are engrained, choices are made and character is shaped - for good or ill. The body, both when it is at peak performance and when it is ready for the junkyard (or graveyard) plays a vital role in a person's spiritual development.
The biblical writers celebrate the gift of the body and take it seriously. Body hatred, often found in religion, it is antithetical to the Scriptures. The Bible sees the body as a good and powerful gift. Admittedly, it can be misused and even be poised to do evil, but it can also be used to love God and others. St. Paul summarized the biblical view of the body this way: "The body is ... for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."