When I was a kid I thought that the phrase In the long run referred to a time when we would all have to get up, from our desks — because that's where we spent so much of our lives then, sitting at a desk — and just start running. I imagined some kind of apocalypse and In the long run was the actual time when we would all be running away from it. Or jogging, probably.
I suspect there were two influences that led to this particular childhood brain contortion: that famous photo of the naked girl running with other people from her village in South Vietnam after they had been bombed, and the drills we had in school at the time.
When I saw that photo as a little girl I didn't know anything about napalm or what the Vietnam War was about, it was just a really scary image. And I linked that photo with the elementary school air-raid drills we were having at the time. Sometimes we had to get under our desks, because, of course, a first-grader's school desk is good protection from nuclear bomb fallout, and sometimes we went down to the basement.
Childhood is a confusing time in so many ways, and more so when you heap images of war and weird school drills onto the pile.
I read a bit about the girl in the photo, who she is today. She is married and lives in Canada, has two kids. I read that she was embarrassed by the photo for a long time and how she eventually decided to turn her old wounds into gold. She started a foundation to help children who are victims of war.
These are the days, in church, after Easter, when we talk about Jesus and how he died a truly horrific death, public, painful, gruesome. Crucifixion was what they did with the bad guys back then. Only he wasn't really a bad guy, he was just a threat to the leadership of the time (whole other blog post). The story goes that he died and a couple of days later he reappeared, walking around, talking to his friends and eating broiled fish — a questionable choice for a first meal, post-resurrection, for sure, but probably easy to digest.
So he comes back from the dead and everyone is really confused and skeptical, no surprise there. The big surprise, actually, is that this guy who seems to have just pulled off the impossible doesn't throw lightening bolts or turn pennies into pots of gold to prove he's special. He just spends his days walking and talking with people and he tries to calm their fears in the most basic way. He shows them his hands and his feet and his abdomen and he says Put your hand on my wound ... go ahead and touch it. Put your hands on my wounds; it's how you'll know I'm human. It's how you will know that God is everywhere, even and especially in our suffering.
He also breaks bread with them and eats fish with them. And eventually they get it, in the stories it says that their eyes were opened and their hearts were burning.
Our bodies are our places of our deepest wounds, they carry all of the stories of us and they don’t forget the things that our minds don’t want us to remember. The metal pin jutting from my knee is the day a car rammed into me. The two tiny scars a little further up tell the story of a leg that was shorter than the other one when I was born. The creaky knees are a reminder of the many days I have spent on mountain and tennis court. There is a scar on my right forearm where they took some cancer out. My face belies a lifetime of lazy sun worshipping. These tired and saggy breasts did the work of launching three humans; I have probably cried enough tears in my life to fill a small pond in which we could all enjoy a summer evening swim. All of the flesh, blood, bones and salty water that is me hold the many beautiful and sorrowful stories of these 53 years.
I know now, all too well, about The long run. Forty-five years have passed since I saw the photo of that little girl. There will most likely not be forty-five more. I carry this body, with all its scars, its stories of childbirth, injury, drinking and sobriety, bravery and cowardice, heartbreak and love through my days hoping, always, for the opened eyes and burning heart that will allow me to see God in all of this madness. In the walking and talking and in the bread and fish and of course, in the wounds. Always in the wounds. Amen.