The Ties that Bind

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36 (ESV)

There are reasons why, in my opinion, treatments like chiropracty are sub-optimal as stand-alone treatments.  That is because in most cases, especially with long-standing issues/problems, the body has adapted to the problem. The body and its muscular and skeletal structures have adapted to the problem such that the body now actually prefers the problem. Once corrected, the body will return to its “deformity,” if you will, without systematic reworking of the entire body systems.  Without massage therapy, PT, and specific exercises to support the chiropractic adjustments, the body will return to its deformity because it has learned to prefer it.

So it is with the heart, the mind and the soul. Our psyches, hearts and desires adjust to our distortions learn to “prefer” them. We learn to adapt, growing comfortable in our erroneous thinking or anxious feelings or wandering heart … and our “adaptive self” becomes a place or comfort, security and protection. We no longer know who we are or would be without our contortion — e.g., without our anxiety, our OCD, our longings, our shadow-self, or whatever. We get to a place where we don’t know who we would be apart from this distorted way of thinking or being. Changing our perspective is simply not enough because other parts of our hearts and minds have adapted to “prefer” the deformity as well.

Strange as it seems, we begin to prefer the way things are because that is what we know.  Especially when we have known it for a long time.

To loosen the ties that bind, we need to be able to let go of who we know ourselves to be and to be willing to become someone new. Just as, in the physical realm, in order to change our physical stature … in order, for example, to no longer see the hunchback in the mirror … our whole body needs to learn to hold itself differently.  So too our hearts and minds need to learn to make many adjustments in order to see and to be differently.  It is a process, not an event.  It is a systemic, interrelated, ongoing process.

But it can be done. There is One who can make all things new. (Rev. 21:5). There is One who can supply all the grace and strength we need.  (2 Cor. 12:9, Phil. 4:19)  And He wants to — He wants us to be set free!  (Isaiah 58:6). But we need to be willing and ready to see ourselves differently … to hold ourselves differently … to live & move & have our being differently than we now do.

We have to be ready and willing to let go of the old (no matter how familiar) and work towards the new.

Are you ready?

Lent

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Today is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. The day when a lot of people choose to “give up” something for the Lenten season.

What’s interesting to me is that most people, including myself, usually give up something that they know is bad for them. Something that has begun to have too much power and sway. Whether it’s coffee or chocolate, t.v. or technology, alcohol or annoying habits — we choose to give up (at least for the season) some behavior that has destructive power.

What’s also interesting to me is that a vast majority of the things “given up” have to do with the body. Not all, but the vast majority of the things “given up” for Lent have to do with how we are mistreating or not-honoring our bodies. Whether it is something we keep ingesting (as in food or drink), or something that keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns (e.g. keeping us sedentary or compromised) … we tend to release things that hinder the potential of this gift of body.

This is interesting to me because it means that somewhere, deep down, we know that this body of ours — this one body we have been given — IS a gift from God that needs to be honored and cherished. Deep down, we know that it deserves better. Deep down, we know that God has given us something spectacular — that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) — and that we are not honoring the gift as we should.

And if we are not honoring the gift properly, we aren’t really honoring the Giver properly either.

Which leads to the second reason I find our Lenten habits interesting. When Jesus spent His 40 days fasting in the wilderness, it wasn’t to give up something that He was doing that He knew was bad for Himself. It was to prove His dependence on God alone. It was to prove that God alone was sufficient. Jesus didn’t need to look to anyone or anything else but to God alone. Even Satan didn’t have anything to offer Him that was better than what God had to offer!  (See e.g. Luke 4:1-13).  Jesus fasted in the wilderness because God alone was enough.

So when we choose today what to “give up,” may we choose not only to honor the gift by giving up something that harms it … but may honor the Giver by replacing it with the all-sufficiency of God.  May we honor the gift and the Giver by trusting in His provision and power alone.

Strength-Training

“The Lord strengthen and protects me; I trust in Him with all my heart.”  Psalm 28:7a (NET)

“Will you trust Me in the shadow as well as in the sun?'” God said to me. “Do you not yet know that inner strength comes in and through the struggle?”

Strength comes through the struggle.

Yes, it does. And the same is true for strength-training. In order for our muscles to grow stronger, they need to be progressively overloaded. In other words … to get stronger, muscles need to be systematically and repetitively loaded beyond the point at which the muscle is normally loaded. Plain English? A muscle needs to repeatedly work against resistance to a point of fatigue. Then the muscle repairs and grows.

This is how God made us. As we struggle to lift a heavier weight, our muscle is growing stronger.  It is one of His principles in this world.  And when we struggle to get through trying times, we get stronger in spirit too.  (See also “Growing Stronger” post (8/10/15) and “Growth” post (6/24/14)).

So every time I weight-train these days, I think about growing stronger. I think about all of me growing stronger.  Because, rest assured, the thought and intention I put into my weight-lifting routine is nothing compared to the thought and care God puts into the “shadows” He allows me to go through.

“Will you trust Me in the shadows as well as in the sun?” He asks.

Yes, I will Lord.

And with You by my side, I trust that I can and will come out stronger on the other side.