Several years ago, I agreed to work with a physical trainer. I was interested in gaining some muscle tone and increasing my energy. I figured being physically stronger would improve my daily endurance. I had goals; I was taking the first brave steps. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Psalm 16:9
I knew the trainer I’d chosen to work with only casually, but I felt at ease with her. I was looking forward to a new experience – making positive changes – I was ready to work hard. I knew it would be hard. In fact, it seemed insurmountable, sort of, this idea of me getting stronger – I’m not exactly a young pup anymore – it’ll probably take me a long time to reach my goals. Maybe I’m more nervous than I realized…well…ya gotta start somewhere…My thoughts were pinging around like a pinball as I walked in. I was surprised when she took me to a quieter, smaller back room at the gym and told me to stand with my feet shoulder width apart, in front of the mirrored wall. I just stood there, watching her more than my own reflection as she passed behind me. She asked me to look straight ahead and take three deep, long breaths. I started to feel self-conscious, but I did as she asked.
Let’s get on with the show here, we only have 45 minutes…She asked me to roll my right shoulder backward 10 times. I did. Then she asked me to do the same with my left. What in the world? She asked me how I felt. Weird. I feel weird.“I’m fine.” She asked me to look at my reflection and tell her what I saw. I chuckled nervously, “uh…what?” I started to think this was a joke. Am I being punked? Are there hidden cameras? I just want to lift and get toned, for crying out loud…why all this introspective psycho fluff…come on! She interrupted my thoughts, “Let me tell you what I see.” Alrighty, this is gonna get weirder real fast. I tried not to roll my eyes. If I couldn’t voice what I saw, I certainly didn’t want a stranger’s opinion. Besides, what if it was bad. What if she didn’t like what she saw? Did I? I came there to get strong, not feel weak! This was a mistake. I did not want to look in the mirror. I wanted ice cream. I wanted to go home.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6
She moved behind me just over my right shoulder and told me to look at my neck. I did. I didn’t see anything. I tried, truly I did, I wanted the epiphany. She said look at your shoulders. Slowly, I noticed an unevenness, “Oh…I see it!” One shoulder was higher than the other. She told me I probably carried tension in my shoulders. As she stood behind me and put her hands on top of my shoulders, one on each side, I could clearly see what she meant now. Strange. I thought about my heavy purse, the hobo bag I always put on my left shoulder because I’m right-handed. And did I really need that big bag? Was it too heavy? I thought about how many times I answered the phone when I was busy doing other things and struggled to cradle the phone between ear and shoulder. It was amazing to me the things I began to think about when I saw for myself the unevenness in my shoulders. We went on to complete my workout, and she asked me to think about my posture in the week going forward. “Be aware of your body and it’s position throughout the day, and think about what would be helpful or unhelpful. Work with your body, not against it.”
“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16
So, I did. I never knew I sat in the driver’s seat of my car at a wonky angle. I never realized that keeping my arm on the armrest in that position caused my shoulder to bunch up. When I laid down, I noticed that certain positions of my legs could cause my back to feel a slight strain. Once I became aware, I made changes. Only slight ones, but they made such a big difference!
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begun…” Zechariah 4:10
Posture. How we hold ourselves. Being mindful of our movement and intentional about our position. The thing is – it wasn’t hard. Small changes in awareness, a conscious decision to change position, working with my body, not against it. Isn’t this so true in many areas? I know what I need to get done, I know what I want, I have goals! Sometimes my brain swirls like a whirling dervish with all-the-things: things to do, to say, to write, to remember! Sometimes I wake up with my thoughts in a tangled, bramble mess of thorns and weeds. I don’t even know where to start to untangle and focus. My mind is like an unkempt garden that has sprouted up overnight – insistent that I immediately begin to tend to the matters of the day. I think I know what my goals are and what needs to get done, and how quickly. But, then, I do that one thing: I Lift My Eyes; and God gently stops me, turns me around, and helps me to see what’s truly needed.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister, Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made….Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
That’s all. A silent, deliberate, conscious acknowledgement that: I am not sure about things, or even where to begin, and I would like help. And there He is. If we simply turn our eyes to Him, admitting our need, He meets us where we are. Like the trainer who helps us see places where we might be out of alignment. The simple posture of lifting our eyes, because we desire to see, (we really do!); and He steps in to help us see what is needed most. First things first, it is a process, slow down, you will get there. His presence has the calming effect of a faithful friend, walking alongside, helping us to breathe deeply, unclench our teeth, relax our shoulders. There now. Keeping my focus on Him, my mind clears, I let go of unnecessary burdens and sit a little straighter. I can do this.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3