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Speaking to the Soul: are you a capillary?

Speaking to the Soul: are you a capillary?

by Linda Ryan


Do you ever get something running through your head that just won’t give up? It’s like having an earworm, one of those annoying tunes that seems to play over and over and over again until you are so thoroughly sick of it you never want to hear it again and yet it continues to play. 

Today I had something like that, only it was a bit different. I was sitting at my desk, trying to read on my computer monitor with two cats who insisted on being between me and the screen, and to take notes for an online class that I am taking. The subject was the circulatory system, which, God knows, has umpteen million arteries, veins, capillaries, and the like. Of course, then you have to learn the structures that make up these things and their position in the circulatory system. Unlike some friends of mine, I’m learning a foreign language, or rather relearning a foreign language, and a lot of detail I haven’t thought about in probably half a century. 

So, as I went systematically (no pun intended) from the coronary arteries to the digital (finger-type, not numerical-type) veins, I had to remember that there are a lot of other parts that make the veins and arteries work. Without the heart, the circulatory vessels are useless because there is nothing for them to do. Without the vessels, the heart can’t send the blood where it needs to go to keep the muscles and organs and various pieces and parts working together to keep us alive. 

Capillaries are the smallest vessels in the circulatory system and it is they who feed the oxygen-enriched blood to and remove the waste from individual cells and areas to be sent back to the heart and then out for cleaning. They’re tiny enough to fit in very small spaces where individual cells need the support and yet large enough to join together with arteries and veins and keep everything flowing smoothly and as it should. 

The thought that kept running through my head was the scripture where Paul talks about the body having many members, meaning many parts that make it work. Paul was acquainted with the obvious parts of the body, but probably had very little anatomical knowledge of how things worked or even the presence of some organs, muscles, and the like. Still he got the point across, “For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

It reminded me of a time when we were talking about that particular verse, and I remember asking group members what parts of the body did they see themselves as being. Got some interesting answers on that one, everything from eyes to hands to feet and a few things in between. When my turn came, I announced I wanted to be a capillary because even though capillaries are very small and pretty much invisible, they serve the cells around them as other, larger vessels cannot do. A person can live without an eye, or hand, or foot, even a kidney or reproductive organ, but the body still needs the tiny structures to work efficiently. It’s a humble, but necessary, job.

Paul equated parts of the body with abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts. He made the point that if the body were nothing but eyes, it couldn’t function because it was be lacking other necessary parts to keep it fed, mobile, and healthy. If the body were all arms or legs but didn’t have a brain, the arms and legs would just hang, doing nothing. While there are some parts we can do without, optimally the body is formed and populated by the precise number of cells, organs, muscles, and systems so that it functions efficiently and well.

Paul, of course, was speaking of the church as a body, and its people as the arms, legs, eyes, ears, and the whole bit. Each person, like each part of the body, has its own strengths and weaknesses, abilities and lack of abilities, duties to perform, and all dependent on the gifts they have been given and their willingness and ability to do those duties. It’s easy to say, “I can’t do that, so I’m no use to the church.” Even if the job given is an ability to sweep the floor so thoroughly that not a bit of dust remains, the church still needs that kind of person, that kind of body part to make it work. We can’t all the priests, preachers, financial advisers, Sunday school teachers, or even musicians, but there is always a place where our particular part of the body can work for the good of the whole.

So think about it. What’s your job in the body of Christ? What body part when you say you were and why? Knowing there is room for all different kinds of body parts in the church and in the body of Christ, what is preventing you from claiming your job, your calling, and your duty?



Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter.  She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.


Image: Wikipedia


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Interesting tho I would have loved you to spend more time applying the concept of being a capillary than reviewing the trad elaboration of Paul’s analogy.
What is the “oxygen- enriched blood” with which the Church needs to be fed? What is the “waste” we need to be cleaning out? What are the tiny almost invisible but so influencial ways we can go about performing these life-giving and life-saving tasks?
It’s the imagery of the capillary that made me follow this link.

Linda Ryan

Interesting questions. I can only say I think the “oxygen-enriched blood” with which the church needs to be fed is welcoming diversity and not just welcoming it but actively seeking and appreciating it. It also means forming relationships with churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and the like with the common goal of making the world a better, safer, healthier place. All religions have “Love your neighbor” or a version of it in their beliefs, so why not use that as a breath of fresh oxygen. Jesus put quite a bit of emphasis on it.
The “waste” we need to take out is the impression that TEC is a “white” church full of elderly folks and not really a kind of place younger people would want to be. We don’t need to throw out tradition (including traditional liturgy and worship) but we need more exposure. Many of us found our way through TEC’s doors by invitation and by seeing liturgies like Christmas Eucharists and funeral/memorial services for well-known people. We don’t need to throw out beauty in order to be relevant.
Tiny life-giving and life-saving things we can do is to follow the example of St. Francis — preach always, and sometimes use words. Standing up for the Native Americans whose lands are threatened by greedy corporate giants, Episcopal presence helping in disaster areas like Louisiana and Mississippi as well as overseas, speaking out against oppression, poverty, racism, sexism, ageism, orientation, and every other way in which one group seeks to marginalize another — these are a few of the ways. Maybe it isn’t a great answer to your statement, but it’s what I think and feel. And now I’ve written another meditation.
Thank you for your comments and thought-provoking questions.

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