Something about an internal organ rupture has had me thinking about my guts lately.
Did you know the “seat of the emotions” in the Old Testament was not simply the heart but also the bowels? I recall comedian Mark Lowry saying a lot of love songs would be ruined by this Old Testament perspective. “Don’t tell my bowels, my achy-breaky bowels.” “I left my bowels in San Francisco.”
Listen to the prophet Jeremiah’s lament first in the translation we use in worship:
“My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is
beating wildly; I cannot keep
silent” (Jeremiah 4:19, NRSV)
The King James Version is more direct:
“My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my
very heart; My heart maketh a noise in
me; I cannot hold my peace.”
The Hebrew word me’im gets translated as heart or bowels, depending on the usage. It’s possible both of these translations are delicately avoiding a prophetic bout of diarrhea! Excuse me, friend, maybe that’s not your heart making a noise in you? Maybe keeping the peace meant something very specific to poor Jeremiah.
What’s the point of this off-color reflection? Many of us in the late-modern Western world are in danger of “spiritualizing” everything away from physical reality. We live in our hearts and minds. We might say things like, “mind over matter” to justify ignoring the body’s alerts. We might tend to our emotional wellbeing more obsessively than our physical health, as if these were disconnected.
I didn’t spend much time “listening to my body” before this winter. Now I understand a bit better how a hypochondriac could take a small signal to its extreme.
The good news is that in Christ, God got to the bowels of the matter. To the racing mind, racing heart, and – yes! – racing bowels of the matter. As Jonah was in the bowels of the whale three days, so Christ was in the bowels of death and spit back onto the land of the living.
And Christ delivers his promises to us not simply in Words of Spirit for hearts and minds, but in washings of water and the nourishment of bread and wine. At the Lord’s Table, Jesus quite actually presents himself to our belly and bowels.
Therefore, may our “hearts” rejoice! There is no location in creation that our Lord has not taken up residence. And there is nothing of you that God will not raise at the last day and make new – heart, mind, and body.