Lesson #2: Stretch or die!

Like the downbeat of an orchestra conductor’s baton, an airplane's “ding dong” indicating that the fasten-your-seatbelt sign has been turned off initiates a kind of symphony – the welcome melody of loosened seatbelts rippling throughout the aircraft. It’s music to the ears after hours of confinement! Up and down the airplane legs unbend and arms stretch up unto the heavenlies of the overhead bins. Aaaahhh! That moment of stretching is a taste of paradise! Who doesn’t savor a good stretch after being cramped in a tight space?

Oh there might be a twinge of discomfort at first, but that is immediately eclipsed by the glorious freedom of busting loose after hours of confinement! Every fiber in my body rejoices. Stretching re-energizes and relaxes. It gets the blood flowing. It promotes flexibility, balance and even things like good posture. Our bodies need to be stretched.

However… just you go ahead and try to convince my broken shoulder that a good stretch will be so glorious!!

And this leads me to Lesson #2 of this broken shoulder saga, which is: stretch or die! A healthy body wants to stretch. My injured shoulder? Not so much! It shouts, “Touch me and you die!

The doctor knows that left to myself, I will avoid the pain of moving those tight, irritated, injured muscles. His job, being to delay my death, sends me to visit my favorite physical terrorists.

When courage is called for, I pray…I ponder…I procrastinate! I look stuff up. In order to stretch these traumatized muscles and bust through stockpiles of scar tissue, courage is most definitely needed! So I looked up the word STRETCH. Here’s the definition: to lengthen, widen, distend, enlarge by tension.

Then to procrastinate further I looked up synonyms! Synonyms for STRETCH are: lengthen, open, pull, reach, run, span, spread, strain, swell unfold, widen.

Observation: every “stretch” word describes growth. Hmmmm....

And to procrastinate even further I looked up antonyms! Antonyms for STRETCH are …well, I guess it should be no surprise that they’re the opposite of growth: shrivel, contract, shrink, block, compress, abbreviate, decrease.

Conclusion? The opposite of growth is death. If I’m not growing, I’m dying.

Laying procrastination aside (no more words to look up), I am convinced. I resolutely push open the door to the local “torture chamber of healing” knowing if my arm is going to be restored to working order, I need help.

While it can be a glorious thing to stretch of my own free will, it is quite another thing to be stretched at the hands of another. When I submit to being stretched, I am at the mercy of the trained professional. Their goal is to develop my range of motion. I have to trust them because they will push me out of my comfort zone, past what I can do on my own, beyond where I would take myself. They will challenge me. They will make me work. There will be pain.

Just as Jesus used physical life experiences, such as walking through a vineyard in John 15, to teach his followers deeper truths, I am LISTENING as I walk with him through the valley of the shadow of physical therapy.

I am seeing analogies between this shoulder injury and other aspects of healthiness. Could bumps and bruises in my emotional and spiritual world result in emotional “scar tissue” building up? Where are the places in my mind/heart/soul that are being “protected” by rationalization, misunderstanding, or maybe believing a lie or two? Instead of protecting me, is it in fact preventing me from healthy growth both with the Lord and with others? Does part of “loving one another” involve helping each other identify and make uncomfortable stretches?

In all areas of life a good “stretch” is needed to stimulate growth. Sometimes we do it naturally, while other times we must ask others for help. Growth is not cheap. It may cost money. It will cost time. It will require courage.

I’ve been reading a couple of books and am challenged by these words:

“Comfort is a stealthy thing – it enters as a guest and eventually becomes our master. When you dare to put yourself at the bottom of a learning curve, when you have to stretch far, so far that you reach past your comfort zone, your best is revealed.” Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts.

“What will you do today to develop yourself? Commit today to doing something that will stretch you beyond your present bounds and force you to grow. If you do this daily, you will eventually find that the incremental stretching will add up to remarkable growth over weeks, months, and years.” Todd Henry, Die Empty.

Ok – enough thinking about stretching! On to the doing, actually stretching! It seems about as unnatural as this horse looks…ouch! But the reward of “aaah” is ahead!

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