Giving up the ghost

Photo Credit: David

Photo Credit: David

“Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Jesus – Luke 24:39


I have a confession: I often think of myself as a ghost. I don’t do this consciously, needless to say, but there is something about my self-identity that tends to forget I have a body. As a child, I was bony and awkward, but intelligent. While my friends moved with grace and agility, I kept away from team sports, and excelled in the world of brain and exams. I lived for several years in Oxford, a world of floating philosophies, where dead people’s ideas become more real than your stomach’s rumble to be fed.


My body has so often been an inconvenience, all the more so as my health has declined and my world has become smaller. As my physical abilities have been stripped from me, I have clung to the world of ideas. When I am just a ghost, a disembodied collection of thoughts, I can forget the things that I have lost: the exhilaration of running on a cold day, dancing exuberantly to loud music. It serves me well to be a ghost.


But sometimes I need to be reminded that I am flesh and bones. I want to distance myself from my aching body and distract myself from the pain, but It’s better for my health to listen to my pain at the warning early stages. If I am reading my iPhone at the dinner table, even for a short time, I lose the gift of spontaneity and connection with others, the noise and sights and tastes. I want to pretend that I am not body, but in doing so I lose the blessing of it, as well as the curse.


Photo credit: Rowena

Photo credit: Rowena

God did not appear as a floating idea, he came and breathed oxygen, ate and drank, laughed. He sweated, excreted, ached. Reading Tara Owens’ book, Embracing the Body, reminded me that for God to have chosen to wear flesh means not just God humbling himself, but our physical bodies are honoured and dignified. She writes this: “God became flesh, and flesh became God.” (p. 42). We choke over the second part, and it needs exploring and defining, but at its root it points towards the redemption of our bodies.


God did not design us to be disembodied ideas and emotions, and when Jesus is resurrected, he comes as flesh. He eats fish on the shore with his disciples. He tells them to remember him, not with solitary meditation, but in a meal with friends, talking, laughing, chewing bread, gulping wine.


This year, I am excited to be well enough, for the first time in five years, to be at church for Easter Sunday. I’m averaging less than one church appearance a year at the moment, and it may be all my health can manage this year, but I want to make it count. Half of me feels excited, that this is a huge Big Thing, but half of me is also laughing at the relatively insignificant way to spend my precious time: sitting inside a building with my church family, listening, singing (or humming if my energy gives out), chewing bread, gulping wine, remembering. It is so earthy, so physical and humble. It also happens to be what Jesus, the one who spent his few resurrected days in meals with his friends, commanded us to do.


This Easter, I am re-discovering what it means to be a body, not just a brain, and I am thankful that I worship someone who knows the joy and pain of this.


I will chew bread, I will gulp wine, I will remember.
I can’t wait.


Linking up with Tara Owens’ Synchroblog to celebrate Holy Week. Check out the others! 
Buy Embracing the Body from Wordery (UK),, or (contains affiliate links).
If you’re interested in this topic, check out this 4 minute video I made for the Big Bible Project 2014, Jesus Had Blisters.


  • [tweetit]”I have a confession: I often think of myself as a ghost.” – NEW by @Tanya_Marlow – Giving Up the Ghost:[/tweetit]
  • [tweetit]”I am excited to be well enough, for the first time in five years, to be at church for Easter Sunday.” – @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
  • [tweetit]”This Easter, I am re-discovering what it means to be a body, not just a brain” – @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
  • [tweetit]”God did not appear as a floating idea” – NEW by @Tanya_Marlow – Giving Up the Ghost:[/tweetit]


Over to you: 
  • “God became flesh, and flesh became God” – what do you think about the incarnation as a sign that not only our minds, but our bodies are being redeemed?
  • God didn’t give us solitary meditation to remember him, but a meal with friends. What do you think about this?
  • Can you relate to feeling like a ‘ghost’?

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11 Responses to Giving up the ghost

  1. Mark Allman 7th April, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    I hope it went well Tanya!

  2. Margaret 2nd April, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Happy that you are feeling well this Holy Week. Prayer for a healthful and blessed Easter season!

    • Tanya 2nd April, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

      Thank you, so much Margaret! I always love to see your face around here.

  3. Diana Trautwein 2nd April, 2015 at 5:49 am #

    So lovely, Tanya. Thank you. I’ve just started Tara’s book and LOVE it. So important.

    • Tanya 2nd April, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

      thanks, Diana! I really appreciate you stopping by. So glad you’re also loving Tara’s book!

  4. Rebecka 1st April, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    Oh my goodness, yes, yes, yes to all of this! I can relate to all of it. (Almost, I’ve never been bony and I’ve only been to Oxford in my dreams. 😉 ) But, yes, I also feel like a ghost and sometimes think it would be so much easier to not be trapped inside this malfunctioning body. I am trying to become better friends with my body, though. To listen to it and treat it nicely instead of resenting and being upset with it. Also, chewing bread and gulping wine is something that I really have been missing lately.

    More importantly; I’m so, so happy that you are well enough to be at church for Easter Sunday! 🙂

    • Tanya 2nd April, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

      Thank you for always understanding exactly what it’s like!
      I’m praying that you find communion in other places, too. xx

  5. foggyknitter 1st April, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

    I had been meaning to ask you about whether you get to church on Sundays and how that works with your church. I’ve found not being able to get there a long hard road, getting people to understand that it’s not being lazy etc.

    I pray this Sunday is a joyful experience.

    • Tanya 2nd April, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

      I think a church service is among the most high-level activity that I can think of. So much sitting, and lots of people, lots of energy and concentration required. I have to be feeling MEGA well in order to go, which is why I haven’t been able to go really at all since I’ve been severely ill with ME. I would give yourself a HUGE permission slip where church is concerned. (from me!)

  6. Beth 1st April, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    I’m so psyched for you, that you get to go to church for Easter! yay!

    • Tanya 2nd April, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

      Thanks so much for celebrating with me!

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