Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pretzel Bends

I start my workout on the mat.  I sit down, legs stretched out straight.  I bend forward, reaching my arms until I can clasp my hands around the soles of my feet.  Pulling my legs wide, I drape myself first over my right leg, then my left.  I move to the center, my head near the floor.  I end sitting up, twisting at my waist way around left and right.  I stand and look over to the leg machines.  Someone is on “my” machine.  The one I always start with.  Now I have to start on something else.  My entire workout has to be rearranged, and I am aggravated.  Grr.
I’ve always been flexible.  I’ve always been able to place my palms on the floor doing a standing front bend, do back bends and pretzel bends.  I’ve also always been incredibly inflexible.  I like my routine and get annoyed when something throws a wrench in my plans.  Unfortunately, not just in the gym!  Interruptions, unexpected turns, changes in schedule, all throw me off-kilter.  I hate it, but I just can’t seem to help it.  I guess you’re either flexible or you’re not, right?
At one point in my 30’s I noticed that while I could still touch my toes, my palms no longer made it to the floor.  I started a pretzel bend but got stuck part-way through.  I had stopped doing any stretching, and while I wasn’t paying attention, I started losing flexibility.  I had to begin retraining my muscles.  A little further, then a little more.  The first few attempts hurt like crazy, but I put up with the pain because I knew it was a necessary part of the process.  I stuck with it, and as I slowly increased my reach, I started regaining my flexibility.  It wasn’t a quick fix, but it was worth it.  Oh, I still get stiff sometimes, when I don’t take time to stretch.  I know it’s something I have to be intentional about doing. 
Some people are naturally more flexible than others.  Of course, I’m not just talking physical flexibility!  Some people seem able to roll with the punches and even enjoy when things don’t go according to plan.  It’s not an ‘interruption’, it’s a ‘holy appointment’!  I don’t get how they do it, but I sure envy them.  That’s just not me, though.  There’s nothing I can do to change that, is there? 
Our bodies are temples and we are urged to offer them as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).  I want to present an offering which is as fit (and flexible!) as possible.  Bodies can be trained to stretch, lift, run, jump, do incredible things.  As remarkable as this is (after all, God did create them!), our minds are also able to be trained.  Paul urges us to allow them to be transformed (12:2). 
It’s a cop-out to say I can’t learn to be more flexible.  Like physical flexibility, it takes work, and it’s not a one-time thing.  In fact, I have a feeling it’s a lifelong process!  Is it going to be uncomfortable and even downright painful at times? Yeah, pretty sure.  Will I have setbacks when the inflexibility starts creeping in?  Yep.  Is it worth it to learn to be more like Jesus?  Oh, my, yes!  Can I do it?  Nope, not on my own.  Thankfully, I don’t have to!  Jesus spent His time intentionally, but He was also willing to be interrupted.  What a beautiful and healing encounter occurred because He was willing to stop along the way to important work in order to free a woman from 12 years of bleeding and pain (Luke 8).  He is with me in this.  Limber up!

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