[Jesus said:] “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
When my friend J, gets sick, he contemplates death. Every ache and pain, cough and sniffle are heralds of the fatal illness that will kill him.
In contrast, when I get sick, I’m just annoyed. I am frustrated by what I interpret as my body’s breach of contract: I do healthy things, I stay healthy.
I realize, of course, that there are all sorts of flaws with this idea. First, my delusional assumption that I uphold my end of the bargain: a handful of M&M’s and a tablespoon of leftover bok choy for breakfast, doesn’t constitute healthy eating any more than spending an hour on my bike 3 times a month makes for an exercise regimen. Second, there’s no telling how many of the pathogens that are floating around us everyday get absorbed from the food we eat or the air we breathe; and the only real way to avoid “kid cooties” is to avoid kids (not an option at my house). Finally, there is no way to predict the anomalies written into my genetic blueprint. It is a building plan that I never see, but is read and interpreted by every one of my cells as they construct my life. Who knows what calamities are lying in wait?
The flesh is weak. This isn’t a bad thing, it is just acknowledgement that we are affected by our environment – that there are always forces at work in our lives over which we have no control. What we have control over, is how we will live. Throughout the Gospels, the Jesus we meet is not trying to control his environment. Instead, Jesus continually invites us to consider our choices. What are we doing with the time we have? What is motivating our choices? Are we spending too much time trying to control the things we can’t and too little time managing the things that we can? Jesus taught that the best choices were made with love, mercy, compassion, and reconciliation in mind. Those choices lead to abundant life.
The flesh is weak. And stuff happens. The best any of us can do is to choose life. For me, it makes the Serenity Prayer so much more powerful:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.