Monday, April 6, 2015

A Stretching Experience

This morning was rare.  Nora was the last one awake.  It was 8 a.m. and the rest of us were up, had ate breakfast, and low and behold our typical early-riser was just coming out of her bedroom.  As she came out of her door she stretched her arms out as wide as they could go and said "Ahhhh....good mornin' Mama."  The Holy Spirit put a thought in my heart right away..."Take note of her stretching, I'm going to use that today."

Take note of her stretching.  A little later on when I was in my quite time for the day, I knew I needed to reflect on the stretching, but to be honest, I really didn't want to.  You see, when the Spirit spoke that into my heart earlier it did not produce warm fuzzies.  It produced anxiety.  My thought went something like this, "Stretching?  Oh, Lord, no, not stretching.  If You are going to teach me something about stretching then that means something is going to happen today to stretch me and that doesn't found fun.  Can't I just get a break?  A day of rest?  A day of something NOT stretching me?"  But, that is thankfully not where God left me.  I could have chosen to leave it there.  Worried, hesitant, and fearful of what He was going to show me if I actually pursued this concept of stretching.  If I would have stayed there, I would have missed a blessing I NEEDED to hear today because I was too afraid to explore the depths of what God wanted to say to me.  I would have stayed wounded and unwilling to see the path towards healing.  It is always our choice to follow what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us.  Why do we fear what He has?  Why don't we trust Him to always have good things for us?  That is the Truth--it will ALWAYS be good.

So, as I sat on my bed, I thought about Nora's stretching arms outside her bedroom door.  Was she scared to stretch her arms?  Was she worried that if she would stretch out her muscles, it would be something hard to do?  No, that just seemed silly.  She stretched her arms out because she wanted to.  Her arms had been by her sides or tight to her body all night long and needed a good release of stretching.  Then I thought about my own times of muscular stretching.  I didn't fear stretching.  I didn't really look at those times as something I wanted to avoid.  Stretching my muscles has always felt good!  So why the difference?  Why was stretching my muscles seen as something good and refreshing but stretching my spiritual, cognitive, or emotional muscles seen as something I really didn't want to participate in?  Interesting indeed.  Was this the breakthrough of the day the Holy Spirit was wanting me to grasp?  That I should not be fearing something that will "stretch" me as much as I was allowing it too?  I couldn't wait to dig in deeper now!

I decided to look up some more info about stretching.  Here is what I found...when done properly, stretching reduces injury, allows better adaptation, relaxes muscles, increases range of motion/flexibility and betters one's performance.  However, stretching "properly" means that the stretching happens gradually, gently and in a controlled manner.  When stretching is done too intensely, called "over-stretching", it can produce pain, which is actually tissue damage happening under the surface.  An inflammatory response happens in our body to try to heal the damage done by over-stretching.  Tissue damage can heal, but there are several things that need to happen to help that healing take place.  First of all, there needs to be time given for proper healing because it just won't heal overnight.  During that time, several things are helpful towards the healing of the inflamed, damaged tissue; exercises to promote strength and flexibility, massages, ice, pain-relieving medication, and rest.

When I viewed my current situation in this new light, I couldn't believe the parallels between the physical and the spiritual/emotion/cognitive.  Events or situations in life that produce stretching of our minds, hearts, beliefs are never meant to harm us, but to produce good fruits such as the ability to be more flexible with what we are faced with, to reduce the chance of injury to our souls, increase our range of ability to do what God calls us to do, and even better our performance when we actually do it.  Stretching our minds, stretching our hearts, and stretching our beliefs is very beneficial to the spiritual body, but only when that stretching is done properly, which if you remember, is when it is done gradually, gently, and in a controlled manner.

The problem comes in, just as it does in the physical, when over-stretching happens in our spiritual/emotional/cognitive body instead of proper stretching.  Instead of having the gradual, gentle, and controlled stretching that is supposed to happen when each change comes our way,we find ourselves in situations where, I believe, we are in pain because of spiritual/emotional/cognitive "tissue damage" and now our bodies are living with an inflammatory response in order to heal the damage.  Our hearts, our minds, our emotions need time to heal.  It's not JUST time, however, that is needed to heal.  It's time well-spent on doing things that promote healing.  If physical tissues are just given time to heal and nothing else is done for them during that time, chances are they will just repeat the cycle of getting hurt with the next stretching experience.  Chances are the same cycle of injury will happen to our spiritual/emotional/cognitive selves if we don't heal properly.

Our spiritual/emotional/cognitive tissue damage also needs to be put through exercises that will promote strength building and flexibility.  For me, this kind of strength comes from reading Scripture, praying, being in tune with what the Holy Spirit is speaking to me about and then acting on it (just like the willingness to dig into this topic of stretching today).  It also needs massages...the ability to let another person help work on your area of pain.  We were never meant to do life alone and sometimes having another person helping to work in the places of pain in our bodies/life can really help loosen those tissues and promote healing.  Ice and pain-relieving medications are two things I see as ways to help elevate some of the pain in the process of healing.  They are not meant to actually heal the pain, but to simply make that time more bearable in the healing process.  These "medications" during a spiritual/emotional/cognitive pain might be such things as laughter, a good movie, reading a book, chatting with friends, serving others, creating something, singing, journalling, playing, exercising, getting a physical and making sure your body doesn't actually need some medications to make it work correctly, gardening, sleeping, etc.  Just doing something in the midst of pain that helps you bear the healing process is great!  Lastly, rest.  It's a concept not well received in our day and age, but it does wonders for the healing process.  Rest is not necessarily being lazy, but rest is allowing your minds, your hearts, your spiritual wellness to stop striving, stop seeking, stop yearning and trust that as you slow yourself down, God will provide what you need instead of thinking you need to provide it for yourself.  Rest is trust.

As we do these critical activities, IN TIME, we will see our over-stretched wounds healed.  We will either learn from our mistakes of over-stretching and next time will more gradually and gently move into the changes in front of ourselves OR if the changes of life are just thrown at us quickly and we have no choice to come into it gradually, we will recognize our injured selves more quickly. We will be able to move into a mode of healing and restoration immediately after injury instead of trying to continue limping along, never to fully heal (*side note-physical injuries heal faster when recognized and treated for healing immediately.  The longer it takes to begin treatment, the longer it takes to actually heal).  Either way, when we heal fully from the over-stretching experience, we can view the next time of stretching in a more positive light.  We will not have to fear the experience or wish that we could, instead, stay inside our comfy box of everything already known.  We can face changes with the Truth that God always has good for us and that the stretching experience is no exception...stretching produces really good things in our lives.  We can get out of our box knowing that what is next is only going to make us stronger, more flexible, able to do more than we thought, and all around a better individual.

I am so very blessed that as I sat on my bed this morning, I allowed myself to explore what the Holy Spirit was wanting to say to me through the simple stretch of my 3 year old as she walked out of her bedroom.  If I would have ignored it or dismissed it, I would still be fearing anything that would "stretch me".  Instead, I sit here noting that I have been over-stretched and need healing.  I need to actively be pursuing the very things that will promote healing in my life or I will continue to walk around wounded.  The Holy Spirit wills for me to be whole and healthy in all areas of my life and I believe He wanted me to know that in a very real and practical way this morning.  I also sit here ready and willing to be stretched again instead of fearing it because I know now that whatever happens, good can result because good was intended.

So will you join me today with being willing to be stretched?  To be willing to reject the lie that what will stretch us will not be a pleasant experience?  To be willing to trust God with what He is stretching you with?  If you are finding yourself in a place like I am where you recognize you have been over-stretched, will you be willing today to actively pursue a more restful time of healing instead of trying to push through or ignore the pain?  Will you allow yourself to read Scripture, seek counsel, find joy in the midst of pain, and trust God's ability to carry you through when you need help?  I truly hope you will join me today.

To end, I wanted to bring out the last point my little quest about stretching resulted in this morning.  Do you know what physical stretching also does?  It relaxes us.  Can you believe it!?!  Why did I not want to do that???  Who doesn't need a bit more of relaxation today?  If it's physical relaxation you are in need of, do some actual stretches, friend!  (The article I read suggested doing them before bed for a better night of sleep.)  If it's spiritual relaxation you need, do some spiritual stretching.  If it's cognitive relaxation you seek, do some cognitive stretching.  And if it's emotional relaxation you need, stretch those emotions!  Relaxation because of stretching.  Sounds amazing!  Join me, won't you?  I hope we will all benefit from this stretching experience today.

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