Hold the Stretch
I’ve never liked stretching. It seems like it’s the kind of thing you do in order to get on with other things. That’s probably why I haven’t been able to get into yoga - it seems like just a bunch of stretching with nothing else to look forward to after-just stretching for stretching’s sake.
However, my pain has been quite high lately and so I took a hot bath and then devoted a large chunk of time to this strange activity.
As I held each stretch, I could feel the muscles begin to soften and loosen and I was able to reach further than the few minutes before. Joints relaxed, muscles lengthened and bones seemed to adjust into place. Thirty minutes later, I didn’t hate stretching as much.
We’re working through the book With, by Syke Jethani in our church. Great book. Today, the challenge was to consider “Even if . . .” statements. So, even if my chronic pain doesn’t go away, I choose being with God as my highest value. Even if I don’t get the job I’m hoping for, I choose being with God is still better. Life with God is better than any other thing I’m hoping or striving for.
So, tonight as I layed on my floor holding each stretch, I decided to practice being with God . . . choosing to be in His presence, with Him. But, as I held the stretch, I felt the pain. I felt the pain of the muscle stretching and I felt the pain of the longing for all the other things that I wished I could be doing instead of laying here taking care of this body. Being with God didn’t feel good. Being with the pain, holding the stretch in order to relieve the pain took time and patience and wasn’t fun. I cried a bit, just tears, not weeping, just quiet tears.
Living with chronic pain, I’ve become good at healthy distraction. It’s a skill that actually helps and redirects the brain from focusing on the pain. But it can’t be how I function 24/7. I must, at some point, sit still, hold the stretch and feel the pain. This happens at each doctor appointment when I’m asked to describe my recent symptoms, each lab test, each time I refill my meds and book my next appointment.
So tonight as layed on the floor, stretching, focusing on the pain, staying with it in order to relieve it, I was with Jesus. Nothing spectacular happened. I had a few tears, I talked to Him about how I felt, asked for His comfort and asked if He could show me a fresh glimpse of the purpose in all this. But it was quiet.
Afterwards, I crawled into bed and grabbed a little book that I’ve written verses in for moments like this . . . and I read, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
It’s hard for me to believe that Jesus loves me in my weakness, in my swollen stomach and puffy eyes and painful body and that He wants to be with me as I lay on the floor stretching. It’s hard to believe that I’m enough as I am. But I’m going to try to accept His love, His desire to be together and that even though I’m not doing as much as I want to, He loves me. Perhaps that’s the stretch that I need to hold for awhile in order to find the right kind of relief for my soul.