Greg's Weekly Word: "ache"
Many of you have already gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, or have a plan to get it soon. (Good for you!) But even if you haven't, you may have heard that people sometimes have a small reaction to the vaccine. Side effects can include fever, chills, fatigue, or body aches.
It's interesting that the very thing that can heal us can also be a source of pain. But it is pain with a purpose. The ache you may feel is from your body's immune response. As your body produces proteins to fight off (what it thinks is) a virus, it can cause these symptoms. In fact, when you really are sick, the fever or body aches you experience are not caused by a virus or bacteria, but by your body fighting to make itself well.
(OK. Enough of the public service announcement. On to the weekly word...)
The word itself - ache - means "to suffer continued pain." (No surprise there.) But it may have developed as a word because it sounded like a person groaning if you kind of stretch it out. Aaaaaccche...
(You just said it like that, didn't you?)
The Apostle Paul wrote (Romans 8:19-23) that all of creation waits - groaning, aching - to be set free from its decay.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
The whole world - and especially people of faith - are aching for a better world... for a new creation... for the fulfillment of God's redemptive purposes... The Apostle writes that creation (and us with it!) groans in hope.
Or, we might say, aches with hope:
like the labor pains of a woman - feeling the aches of contractions, pushing to give birth in the hope of new life...
like Rosa Parks - whose feet ached after a long day, whose soul ached for equality, and who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus...
like Fannie Lou Hamer - the civil rights leader, who famously said, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," giving voice to a people's ache for justice...
like any of us - as we feel the ache of discontent (and maybe, at times, despair) with the world as it is...
But perhaps the ache that we feel -
our groaning and longing for something else, something better, something more...
something more just and compassionate...
something more like God's kingdom,
something more like Christ's beloved community -
perhaps that ache is what we must experience to be made well.
It may hurt at times. We may feel an ache when we see how far we fall short from God's promises and purposes for our lives and our world. But perhaps that aching is not an illness itself, but a merely a symptom - a sign that healing is coming. Because - if we will let it - that ache within the body of Christ can move us and our world toward the wellness and wholeness of all creation, and maybe even give birth to a whole, new world.
(Oh, and P.S. - get vaccinated!)