Stretch It Out

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

This has been my ongoing and super complex inner dialogue since trying a new workout a couple of days ago. The program was apparently so effective it targeted muscles I was previously oblivious of owning. Funny, right, that my body is closer to health right now, while I’m in the throes of recovery, than it was back when I felt the painlessness of normalcy?

Progress comes with an ache.

My safety bubble is cushioned with preferences, people, and products that don’t require too much more of me than I like. Clear expectations? Check. Similar perspective as my own? Check. Limited exposure to discomfort? Double-check. I’m always the one in control, firmly seated on the throne. Beyond the thick membrane of that world is the danger of vulnerability.

But it’s always an exchange, isn’t it? Because out past the realm of myself are also the adventures I can’t have without losing any semblance of sovereignty I’ve cobbled together. The thrill of resting smack-dab in the wild heart of why God created me, coming alive with the glint of mischief in His eyes. Deep intimacy that transforms creatures of dirt into beings of glory.

Okay, I think from my bubble, it’s all well and good that that world exists. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do a bit of exploring. But right now, I want some me time. A lifetime of groggy “maybe tomorrows” can build just as impervious a fortress as a clear-eyed decision to say no once and for all. Both are kingdoms of fear. Both smother the ability to live in favor of the ability to survive.

And yet the kindness of God insists on knocking day after day. What other King is this relentless? I don’t even think He’d mind being considered irritating if it would spark an interaction between the two of us.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve bought into the belief that suffering is the worst thing that could happen to me. I’ve bubble-wrapped my soul and muffled the sounds of reality, so maybe a sore rear end is the most merciful kick in the pants Jesus could give at this moment. (And what a gift that He didn’t allow His own “discomfort” to keep Him from the redemptive work of His life, death, and resurrection that could even enable this conversation in the first place!)

Yes, progress comes with an ache. But the soreness precedes the strength.

The beautiful thing about growth is that just a little bit counts. Life is a process, an organic swelling of movement one choice at a time, and it looks different for everyone. Saying yes to coffee can be just as brave for me as moving across the globe may be for you. Also, this isn’t a call to change just for the sake of change: holiness waits on the other side of our yes. A wider view of God’s goodness and power and wisdom and provision is the prize.

If I keep stretching my physical limits, I’ll eventually get to the point where this same workout now causing my muscles to complain will be a breeze, and I’ll need to find a new level to which I can rise. As awful as soreness is, stagnation is worse. So it is with the soul. We need constant challenge to be healthy; most such challenges are accompanied by spiritual lactic acid.

There is deep comfort (the good kind) in knowing that we’re surrounded by opportunities to expand, and Jesus is already working ahead of us. He knows what we could be, and He is eager to see His bride step into the fullness of who she is. So let’s hop to it! And then stretch it out.

What brave thing might you say yes to today? How is God longing to grow you?

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