Stretching

“God teaches the soul by pains and obstacles, not by ideas.”
~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Our daughter has friends from California staying with them for a few days, and one of them is a yoga instructor. She graciously offered to put us through the paces if interested, and four of us agreed. We lowered the living room lights, spread bath towels on the ceramic tile floor, and did our best to bend our bodies on command. At one point, I looked down and couldn’t determine how my leg had made its way in front of my hand, while the other leg bent at an odd angle in the opposite direction. I felt like a pretzel and was ready to take up Twister again after all these years. We completed thirty minutes of synchronized stretching and agreed to do it all over again the next day, as it had gone relatively smoothly. The problem I learned during the second session was that our daughter’s friend had taken it easy on us the first day. Convinced that we could handle it, she pushed past the dimension of discomfort and into the arena of pain. I kept asking myself why I had agreed to this torture, and decided that yoga is a four-letter word. When I lightheartedly commented on the misery and torment of the exercise, the instructor smiled and pleasantly stated that expanded flexibility could add years to my life or, at the very least, would enhance the quality of whatever quantity I end up with. In the aftermath I’ve discovered that my back feels better than it has in a long time. Momentary misery is evidently worth the long term benefit.

Left to myself I choose comfort over commitment every time. That is precisely the reason I cannot leave the choice up to me–I must live the crucified life so that the choice is always up to Him. Dying today translates into life I never fathomed possible. Death to self does not mean an end or emptiness; instead, crucifixion means fullness and spiritual altitude–life on a higher plane than I would have chosen for myself otherwise. In order to soar, we must first advance to abandonment. Rather than passive inactivity, the crucified life insists that we take action, cutting erroneous ties and re-lashing our moorings to Christ. With the Prodigal, “I will arise and go to my father…” I will arise– I will wake up, get, up, grow up, and climb up. I trash and discard the garbage piling up in my heart and mind. Ruthlessly, I inventory motive and attitude and address each in desperate fashion. I recalibrate my attention to Christ each day with savage intentionality. “Reckon yourselves dead to sin…” This is no valley of ease; this is a summit to scale under harrowing and hellish conditions. Crucifixion places me precariously on a rocky crag with no safety net below, and bids me ever higher.

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