Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lessons From Physical Therapy

It feels like more than 2 days have come and gone since my last post, because a LOT has been happening within my heart and life.  After the sermon Sunday and everything God is trying to teach me about not being a slave to fear, he decided it was time to go even deeper.

Normally, he just says, "OK, it's time to work on this ONE thing."  Actually, now that I put words to it, he probably hasn't been saying that.  He has probably been saying, "Let's work on you surrendering and trusting me in every area," but all I can hear because fear stands in the way is, "just work on one thing at a time."

So, yesterday he prompts a dear friend to reach out to me and this friend starts sharing what has been going on in his life over the last year or so and how he is learning to trust God to be "just enough" for his present needs.  The words "just enough" have repeated over and over in my head.  Something about hearing those words and understanding what they meant changed everything for me.

I can't describe how it changed me, except to say that this has happened one other time in my life.  On Good Friday, when I was on the precipice but terrified to let my walls come down before God, when I thought I deserved only punishment for everything I had done, when I didn't think I was good enough, when I didn't think I deserved grace and forgiveness, God used our counselor to encourage me to "just for today, on Good Friday" let Jesus take the punishment I knew I deserved.  Because the truth was the Christ on the Cross DID take my punishment away from me.  It was placed on Jesus, whose sole purpose was to show us God's love and lead us to him. That moment changed everything for me and I have spent the last 8 years trying to do better, to be better, and to live a different way.

It just now occurs to me that in that moment, Tony was telling me to let God be "just enough" that day 8 years ago.  To just find him in that one moment and accept that his grace was "just enough" to cover me. 


I don't care what anyone says.  It is all connected.  God orchestrated all of this and tied it together so beautifully that it can't be denied.

This new lesson God is teaching and asking of me feels that same way.  Now that I know that he can be "just enough," it changes everything.  I know that my life can never go back to the way it was. 

My fear has to leave.

My pain can no longer control me.

My heart has to continue to soften towards others.

Any issues with food, good or bad, have no place in my life.

The distractions that I allow to fill my every waking moment have to end.

My life has to reflect God in EVERY single thing I do, not just where my marriage and renewed understanding of Jesus is concerned.

So I have begun a new practice.  When the pain gets bad (or the fear or anxiety are threatening), I stop and immediately breathe, ask God to give me "just enough" to get through the next moments, and then I turn up the worship music and shift my focus. 

And he has been faithful. 




I could say that it's just the shift in my focus that is relieving the pain, but I think that isn't fair to limit God like that.

If he could heal a man who hadn't walked in 38 years (John 5), simply by telling him to pick up his mat and go home, then he can easily move my pain from a 6 to a 5.  We are so stupid.  We limit God.  We can look at the miracles performed in the desert, in the Old Testament, or the miracles Jesus and his apostles performed, and we can think, "Yeah, but God doesn't still work that powerfully."



I've seen him do it.  Sure, he's not turning water to wine specifically or curing my degenerative disc disease (though he could if he wanted, he knows I wouldn't turn to him if I didn't have the pain to point me to him), but he took a heart that was lost, a prodigal who had been running from him for over 7 years and rolling around in the pig pen, and he RAN to my rescue. 

I'm sure many know the story of the prodigal son in the Bible.  It is such a beautiful picture of how God, our Father, loves us, waits for us, and chases after us.  When the son realized how he had been living, when he "came to his senses," we find this:

“So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Luke 15:20-24

He took a marriage that was dead, filled with addiction, broken vows, adultery, pain, disrespect, and discontentment and he made it into something so beautiful there aren't words to properly describe it.

He is still working miracles.  He is still moving mountains.

So, yes, he does still work and move in powerful ways.  It wasn't just something he gave to the Israelites.  It was intended for us today, right now, in this very moment.

It was with this renewed sense of turning to him and begging him to be just enough to get me through the next few moments that I went to physical therapy today.  And as I was laying there while the therapist worked on the tight muscles in my neck, I began thinking, "There's no way this guy is a physical therapist."

I have done physical therapy for my knee, for my back, and for my neck multiple times.  EVERY time it has been "here are exercises that will likely hurt, but do them anyway because that's how you get pain free.  If it hurts, you're doing it right."  I can tell you with absolutely certainty that after my knee surgery, physical therapy in that way was NOT the right answer.  I quit going after a few weeks because instead of getting better, my knee was getting worse.  It was only when I backed off and rested more and listened to my body that I began to heal and got stronger.

So when I first went to PT last week, I expected to be given specific exercises to get my range of motion back in my neck.  What the therapist did though was basically very focused massage.  Sure, there's a technical name for it, fascia something or other, but it really felt like I was getting a massage mixed in with a little chiropractic care.  And it surprised and confused me, because none of my physical therapy sessions ever went that way.

Today was no different.  As I was laying there, thinking about how gentle the therapist was being with me, I immediately connected it to God.  But I wasn't quite sure if the therapist was a chiropractor or therapist or massage person.  So I just asked him.  I was like..."So, what is your title exactly?  Are you a physical therapist or chiropractor or what?  What do you do?  Because this isn't like any physical therapy I have ever been to."

He told me they are a holistic organization that houses massage therapist, physical therapists and chiropractors.  He is technically a physical therapist though.  One definition of holistic is this: characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

He somehow instinctively knew what I needed.  Instead of manipulation of my spine or forcing me to do stretches, he took a very gentle approach and is working on the tissue and muscles that have been affected by surgery.  He is even trying to work through some of the issues I have now with my vocal range and ability to use my voice and his mission is to help people thrive, not just get by. 

One thing my friend Shawn and I have been discussing these last couple of days is just how gentle God is with us.  When we are ready to come to him for the first time, or to come back home if we were running like the prodigal, we expect he will be angry.  Like parent with a child who came home past curfew or who we caught drinking or any other number of trouble kids get into.  And we expect there will be very negative consequences because we chose to live outside of him.  I think that is why a lot of people avoid God.

They are where I was 8 years ago.

Feeling unworthy of love.

Believing that I was incapable of ever thriving.

Unable to accept that no matter the disaster I had made of my life, I could be forgiven.

There is a HUGE misunderstanding where God and Grace are concerned. 

He doesn't want to punish us.  He loves us.  Tenderly and gently, but also passionately. 

He wants us.  

Just us.  

As we are.  

He can teach us the rest as we go.  If there are changes we need to make in our lives, he will be gentle and patient and lead us when we need to be there.  I could sit and regret not delving deeper than I did these last 8 years.  But something God revealed this morning is that it's okay that I am just now going deeper.  Because 8 years ago, he called me to come back to him and really live a changed life.  So I tried to do that the best I could and even though I see a better way now, I wasn't ready. 

I am ready now.

He knew it and he began placing people around me that would speak life and truth to me as he has revealed this to me.  There are so many things I could tell you, tiny miracles I have seen God orchestrate just in the last day and a half, but even beyond that...he has been moving for weeks, likely months, years, eternity even to bring me right here to where I am today

And it took as long as it needed to. 

I can forgive myself for the regrets.  

I can forgive myself for not "getting it" 8 years ago.  

I can forgive myself for how I lived and my limited understanding of who he is for the first 33 years of my life.  

He tells me it is okay. 

He tells me that my best is good enough. 

There will be days when your best looks like laying around on the couch because you can't shake the depression that is trying to suffocate you.

There will be days when your anxiety is so high you're mind is spinning out of  control and you can't see a way through.

There will be days when you have to fight tooth and nail not to give in to temptation.

There will be days when you are just exhausted and can't put one foot in front of the other.

Even in those days, your best is enough.

You are enough.

Even in your mess.

Even in your sin.

There may come a time when he will call you to go deeper, but he doesn't look at all those days you couldn't get out of bed and find disappointment.  What you maybe couldn't see is that he was lying beside you, holding you, waiting patiently.  Hoping that you would turn your eyes to him.  That you would recognize his presence and that you would allow it to comfort you. 

Sometimes it is okay to not do

Sometimes it is okay to just sit in God's presence and weep or rail against the world or grieve losses.

So here is my encouragement today.

Let your walls down.

Try to figure out what is holding you back.

Is it fear?





Let it go.  Just for the next few minutes.  Ask God to give you "just enough" to carry you through the next few moments.  And when the fear or the memories or the temptations come back, ask him again to be "just enough" for the next moments.  Try it.  See if he isn't faithful.  Once you experience it, you will understand this song that I have been playing on repeat. 

It changes everything.

It has to.

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