When I was in 8th grade we learned that I had only one fully functioning kidney. The left kidney was under-developed and would be unable to support my life system if I ended up losing the other kidney. This led to consequences that seemed unfair since I was very much looking forward to playing football at the high school level. Now, it was too great of a medical risk. Football was out.
A more favorable consequence was that I was able to receive a Vocational Rehabilitation scholarship from the state which ended up paying for my 4-year degree. Another negative consequence was that I could not be hired for a summer job at the local electrical power plant while I was in college. This would have been a terrific paying opportunity; but, because I was deemed a higher risk, I was not hired.
Except for one bout with kidney stones and one affliction of kidney infection, I have lived a fairly normal life without much concern about this disability. I was told by the doctor that when I got older, there was a good chance that I would have to deal with high blood pressure. Well, that certainly came true. Not much thought have I given to the functions of the kidneys because they haven’t really slowed me down any. However, my dear friend who hooks up to a dialysis machine for 8 hours every night while he sleeps has a much clearer view of the necessity of those internal organs since he is on a list for a kidney transplant.
This morning I was reading in the book of Psalms, using the Masoretic text (authoritative Hebrew text of the Bible).
“For Thou hast made my reins; Thou has knit me together my mother’s womb. I will give thanks unto Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance, And in Thy book they were all written – Even the days that were fashioned, When as yet there was none of them. How weighty also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I were to count them, they are more than the sand; Were I to come to the end of them, I would still be with Thee.” -Psalms 139:13-18
This is a familiar passage to those Christians who advocate a moral reasoning from a biblical perspective for a pro-life position in the public arena. What does it mean that God has made my reins?
Reins (Hebrew: kilyah) means: kidneys; figuratively, the mind (as the interior self).
Even though most would probably read this scripture figuratively, I still wanted to know about the connection with kidneys; so I turned to the anatomical explanations in order to hopefully see some deeper meaning. In doing a little research about the functions of the kidneys, I found that they perform four primary services for the body (Jewell).
- FLUID BALANCE: Since the human body is comprised of 60% water, it is critical that the proper balance of fluids is maintained. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps, brain slow-down of cognitive calculations and digestion problems. It is amazing to me that if the kidneys are not working correctly, three other major body functions are adversely affected: muscles, brain and stomach/intestines.
- REGULATING & FILTERING MINERALS IN THE BLOOD: The blood passes through the kidneys on the way to the heart to be reoxygenated, the kidneys extract waste and toxins prior to arrival at the heart. One of the most common causes of heart disease is kidney disease.
- FILTERING OTHER WASTE MATERIALS: The kidneys filter waste materials from food, medications and toxic substances that are then sent to the bladder which collects this waste and extracts it from the body.
- CREATING HORMONES: Erythropoitin is a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells which are the oxygen-carrying vehicles of the blood. The kidneys play an important role in promoting healthy bone marrow and in regulating blood pressure.
Largely, the kidneys are the regulators and filtration system that purifies the blood (life source) of the body. They take in the blood, metabolize nutrients, and help pass waste products out of the body. These reins separate out the bad substances from the good.
Do the kidneys perform for the body that which the reins do for the inner man? Do the reins somehow provide a filtration system to protect our hearts? Who or what are the kidneys (reins) in the Body of Christ? Are my analogies abusing the scriptures or their poetic beauty somehow? Are the meanings of these word just meant to be figurative?
Again, the scriptures refer to this curious anatomical descriptor.
“Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my reins and my heart.” – Psalms 26:2
To me, this psalm signals the need to check in with the Great Physician (Jesus) to make sure that these inner man organs are healthy and fully functioning for the good of the body. The psalmist seems to be asking the Lord to perform a stress test (“try me”) to secure our confidence in meeting day-to-day challenges. This reminds me of scheduling a regular physical with the ONE who has the tools to investigate my motivations, attitudes, and inner designs. HE can assess the impact of my diet and exercise regiment that needs to be an ongoing daily discipline. The results of those disciplines (or lack thereof) become evident to the doctor at my
physical spiritual exam. What am I ingesting from this world? Do I seek out a better, heavenly diet? How much time do I read, listen, watch the tangled death-generating news of this age compared to seeking the eternal logos of life? Am I able to think consistently on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, holy, of good report when I am inundated with the outer man’s thinking (Philippians 4:8)? It seems that when I take time to read & study the Bible, I am able to filter the contents of what I have ingested from this world. If I drink from the fountain of living waters there is a better “fluid balance” in my life. God’s Word does filter all my living in this world, helping me to sort through the toxic waste and the good stuff. All of that sort of sounds like functions of the kidneys – the reins of my inner life.
Jewell, Tim. “Healthline.” 1 March 2018. Healthline.com. Web. 16 November 2019.
Philippians, Letter to the. The Holy Bible – NKJV. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010. Print.