The older I get, the more I understand how important stretching is. I have always “known” stretching was important, but now I really know it. I remember stretching before football practice and basketball games, hearing how important it is to stretch well before and after any exercise or athletic event, and how stretching decreases your risk of injury. Yet, I never took stretching too seriously. I would casually stretch for about 5 or 10 seconds before a basketball game, but other than that, I never did any stretching.
I have recently decided that stretching is not only pretty valuable, but something I wish I had given more attention to earlier in my life. I am best described as anything but flexible. It is easy for me to get very stiff. I can’t touch my toes, sitting cross-legged on the floor is a major ordeal (and uncomfortable), and I can tell I have less range of motion now than in the past. For those reasons, I am trying to be more faithful in doing some stretching exercises each day.
Something else I have learned is that stretching isn’t as easy as it may look or sound. To really stretch well, it takes some time and effort. It can even be a little uncomfortable, and in some cases, downright painful. I had a frozen shoulder a little while back, and the way to “unfreeze” the shoulder was to stretch those muscles. It was extremely painful and took a physical therapist to push my arm in different directions past the point it wanted to go, but the stretching worked, and it was worth it. Stretching isn’t what I would call fun, but I always feel better after doing it.
It is good for us to be stretched in all aspects of life. When we stretch the capacity of a muscle, it becomes stronger. When we stretch our bodies, we become more flexible. When we challenge ourselves mentally, or “stretch our minds,” we grow in our knowledge, reasoning, and understanding. The same is true spiritually. When our faith is stretched, it grows and becomes stronger. Being stretched is a really good thing.
The only problem is that stretching can be hard. This is true physically, mentally, and spiritually. We have to be intentional to stretch physically of course, but the same is true to continue to stretch our minds. It is important to keep growing and learning throughout life, and the older we get, the more intentional we must be. Having a plan for reading, exposing ourselves to new things, is really important, and doesn't happen if we don’t have a plan and discipline to stick to that plan.
Spiritually, we also need to continue to learn. Our study of the Word of God must be a lifelong pursuit. We will never exhaust the depths of God’s Word, but we should try our best to learn from it throughout our lives. Further, we should be intentional about stretching our faith by embracing things that move us beyond our comfort zone. God will always push us to do more, not only for His Kingdom’s sake, but also for our sake.
Even in trials and tribulations, if embraced in faith, and if we are determined to trust God while walking through them, can strengthen and build our faith. Our afflictions can even produce “an eternal weight of glory” in us. Many people are willing to trust God for dying, but not for living. Take some Kingdom risks. Be willing to serve in new ministry. When God speaks in a way that is a little scary, do some spiritual stretching! You might be surprised at all God will enable you to accomplish for His Name if you are willing to stretch your faith a little!