(Exodus 32:7-10, Deuteronomy 10:16, 2 Chronicles 30:8, Nehemiah 9:29, Psalm 32:8-9, Ezekiel 36:25-28, Zechariah 7:8-12, Acts 7:49-51)
I used to believe that stretching was a useless part of exercise. As an enlisted man at Fort Drum in the mid 1990s, I only stretched because our Sergeants made us. In my mind, it wasn’t exercise if it didn’t make me stronger or faster. After all, if I can’t feel my muscles growing or it doesn’t help me lose any weight, it can‟t be all that important, right? But in the past few years, injuries and the aging process have begun to teach me that I don’t have the option not to stretch.
When I was commissioned as an officer in 1998, I initially thought one of the perks was having a little more freedom to do PT on my own. In fact, in my first six years as a Chaplain I was assigned to smaller posts in Virginia and Germany where the staff officers were almost always on the honor system to do PT on their own, so I rarely stretched. But then we moved to Fort Campbell, and my physical training changed dramatically.
I had just come from my first tour in Iraq where I could still choose my own lifting routine, set my own running pace, and decide how much I wanted to push myself (or not). I was
in pretty good shape but only in doing what I wanted to do. I hadn’t worked on my flexibility. When I came to the Screaming Eagles, my Executive Officer (XO) re-introduced me to the Division mentality I had forgotten since my time with the 10th Mountain. Can you say “pain‟? Can you say, “somebody help me, I’m cramping up over here!”
Divisions are like humongous versions of the human body: they need their parts to act powerfully and precisely to do anything the “Head‟ calls them to do ASAP. That’s a good working definition for flexibility: being able to turn on a dime, especially in the face of danger. If your body suddenly Photo courtesy of U.S. Army encounters danger and is not flexible, the parts of your body could easily be injured. And, as you can imagine, greater danger and less flexibility increases the risks. But I was “stiffnecked” and didn’t want to turn from my preferred routines.
My experience at PT with the 101st was mixed. I loved the upper-body workouts. Because of my longtime focus on my chest and arms, I could take whatever my XO dished out. But when it was a run day, I woke up with a knot in my stomach. I knew he would run us one of two ways: way long and moderately fast or just fairly long and crazy fast! I’d like to say that he was just unreasonable, but the truth is that I was just unprepared. I had been inflexible (or, to use Scripture’s description, “stiff-necked‟) in what I liked to do. Looking back, it’s no surprise that I sprained my ankle twice and turned my knee once in the first months running at Campbell.
I began re-evaluating my opinion of warming up after I stepped into a pothole on a 5-mile run. Suddenly, the ground disappeared beneath me and – since I tend to run on the outside of my feet – all of my weight came down on the outside of my ankle. Problem! I had never conditioned my legs to respond to sudden changes with flexibility.
Warming my muscles to be more pliable was never a priority with me, but it is now. Life is full of sudden demands. We must be ready at a moment’s notice to respond wherever our Head calls His Body to turn. This is especially true where spiritual danger is involved. And, since every human being is a spiritual person with a natural “stiff-neck‟ toward going their own way, I submit to you that there is always spiritual danger in you and around you (1 Peter 5:8).
Ask yourself, “how dangerous is the situation, and in what direction should I turn quickly: prayer? Scripture? Fellowship? I had never really thought of Scripture‟s warning against being “stiff-necked‟ until I began to study the parallels between physical and spiritual life. Flexibility is crucial, isn‟t it?
In fact, change comes first by flexibility, not by “growth‟. If you think about it, growth is just gaining more of what we already have. As I said earlier, cancer is a type of “growth‟
that takes over your body. Simply doing more of what we’re already doing is like walking faster and stomping harder in the same circle. That just creates a deeper rut! To truly grow, we need to do something different. This is why the most successful workout plans involve muscle confusion: always keeping your body slightly surprised. Repentance is an “About Face!” – a 180 degree turn from self-focus to Christ-focus and His ways. This requires “flexibility‟. How might you become more aware and meditate on flexibility?
What is your fear? And who is your Love? W.A.I.T.
Watch God‟s creation for pictures of flexibility. For example, when I see a shortstop catch a baseball fired in from the outfield and then spin around to zing it home, I see flexibility
in action. When I take time to do knee rotations and feel the synovial fluid being released into my joints, I feel the goodness of flexibility. I want the same for my spirit, so I will…
Accept that God‟s creation (my body) warns me about the risks of being “stiff-necked” or “hard-hearted”. I will…
Invest in Christ by spending less time and energy spent on the “power” of my muscles in which I often trust and more time and energy on what seems less glorious: flexibility! I will…
Team with other believers for opportunities to confess my need, invite them to the same goal, and support each other.
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