I have been really running and training a lot lately. In the gym I am lifting heavy and on the trails I am going far. I am, as you have read in other posts, been so excited to see just how fit I am becoming. It’s a great feeling! But a couple of weeks ago while running, my knee tweaked. I stopped running at the moment and then took a few days to ice it, care for it. But it didn’t really seem to be going away. Admittedly I was inwardly concerned that this might sideline my new passion and I would be out of running, losing all the money invested in registrations and equipment, and worse, reaching my newly set goals.
Jumping ahead a few weeks, still running, my lower back/right hip area was a bit tender. I just brushed it off as random body aches. But it got worse, so I went in to see my chiropractor. Post adjustment, I felt great and went out to run…my longest run to date. I did a complete half marathon in training! FELT GREAT! The entire rest of the day I was wonderful. But morning came and my back was so bad I could barely get out of bed. Now I have been icing it and visiting the chiropractor.
Thankfully both knee and back are on the mend! And it happened through something I found to be revolutionary! Stretching! (DUH!) I in fact had not “injured” anything. I got too strong, worked some muscles too tightly, and let them pull my body out of whack. The knee pain almost left entirely when my trainer helped me to identify a hamstring that needed to be stretched out. What a relief both of pain and hope for future goals.
The back is a current malady and I am still working on it, but again, my trainer helped me to see that all my squats and dead lifts were strengthening my lower back and running was strengthening my thighs. Both are good things and sound great. I am getting strong. But something called a hip flexor was getting tight and combined with my lower back muscles tightening they both were pulling my pelvis forward causing a misalignment. He showed me a series of stretches and again, I found immediate relief. This one is a bit more settled in so the stretching regimen will take a bit more time.
But a lesson learned. Getting strong is not enough! Packing on the miles, racking up the weight, doesn’t cut it. One has to slow down and stretch out. We all hear about stretching, but so many, myself included, don’t give it the place it deserves. We take short cuts, doing just a few quick ones, but the goal is to get right to the run or the weights.
So why am I taking time writing about this? Because I saw spiritual life parallels.
I find in my own life and have observed in many others that we have some transformational experience and it’s exciting. We ride the wave of the new feeling, changes, and generally go forward in our new found life with confidence. We should! God has brought healing or new awareness, or a lingering sin issue has finally been overcome. That is what God does in us. And again, it feels great!
But then some twinge of pain happens and we get discouraged or we get sidelined with some sort of “fall” through destructive choices. What do we do? Well some, give up. Just as in running or another sport, saying the injury took them out. Others gut through it, still working on getting strong and ignoring the pain, the signals telling them something is wrong and should be adjusted.
I suggest a third option. Taking to time to stretch out. Sometimes our getting too strong too fast throws our body out of whack. Spiritually we seek or let ourselves ascend to areas of leadership too quickly. We get over confident in “our” ability and become self-deluded. We do as so many in the fitness area do, we take short cuts. We don’t take time to do the full stretch routine. We fail to recognize it’s vital part of the process. What is the “stretching” part of our spiritual life in my illustration? Resting, delighting, meditating. I am a charge ahead doer. I recognize and relate to Christ on the go. I see and feel Him work through me and in me as I serve and do my tasks. BUT that doesn’t negate the necessity of slowing down and resting in Him too. I need to not just work the muscles of faith, but stretch them out so they don’t get out of balance.
Too many seemingly strong people of faith have crashed and burned I think for this very reason.
I don’t want to overplay my spiritual application of this illustration. But I clearly had this aha today and wanted to pass it on. On the physical fitness track, be mindful, build and strengthen, but don’t get wound too tight. Listen to your body and discern if the pains are the good ones from building strength or the signals to slow down and pay attention to some other needs.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Psalm 37:3-7a (NLT)
My life-passage here reminds me to wait on Him to act. It’s hard to be still when you’re feeling so strong and fit. There are times to charge ahead, to take the land, to get caught up in the “overcoming”. But don’t neglect the Delighting, Trusting, and Being Still. Our spiritual growth, just like our physical is a holistic and multifaceted endeavor.
This is a hard but necessary lesson I come back to all the time! I suspect I am not alone.