My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 9, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
“Ouch,” I exclaimed as I struggled to get out of my chair. The pain in my left leg was excruciating. After standing, I had to wait a few moments for my leg to be strong enough to hold me up. This difficulty in getting out of a chair had become my new routine, and I was tired of it. I had suffered from arthritis pain in my knees for several years, but this was so much more. For a month or so, the outside of my left leg had been numb below the knee. If I knelt or something touched the numb area, sharp pain would shoot through my leg. I needed to find out what was happening and get some relief, so I called my doctor and made an appointment.
When I explained my symptoms to the doctor, he told me that he thought that inflammation of nerves in my back was the source of my pain. After taking x-rays, he wanted more information to make the diagnosis, so he scheduled an MRI. When the MRI results came back, he decided that the first course of treatment should be physical therapy. I looked forward to something that would lessen the pain. But it was several weeks before there was an opening for physical therapy. By the time that I was able to get a therapy appointment, the pain had intensified.
When the day came for my first appointment, I was a bit nervous. Medical procedures and not knowing what to expect are way outside of my comfort zone. But Adam, my therapist, put me at ease. He was very thorough in his examination and carefully explained everything that he was doing. He showed me some simple exercises with unusual names like “wig wags” and “side-lying open book” and sent me home with instructions on performing five simple exercises that I was to do every day.
My attitude had improved when I came in for my second therapy session. Although I still had pain, I could already see improvement. I felt confident that things were going to get better with physical therapy. Once again, Adam made me feel optimistic as he explained that he thought nerve pain was the cause of my condition. He went into detail about the nerves and what we could do to make my situation better.
One of the techniques he used was dry needling. It is a treatment in which sterile needles with no liquid inside, that is why it is called “dry” needling, are applied to trigger points in the muscle. Preliminary research shows that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, and normalizes dysfunctions of the motor end plates, the sites that transmit nerve impulses to muscles. While Adam applied the needles to the affected area of my left leg, I could feel an electrical stimulation in my left big toe. He told me that it meant he was working on the proper nerve.
One thing that became evident as Adam worked with me in therapy was how stiff and inflexible I am. I have a poor range of motion in my legs and am not able to bend easily. Flexibility is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If your joints and muscles become stiff from either not being used or wear and tear, everyday activities are more challenging. Stretching and strengthening exercises increase your ability to move comfortably.
The stretching exercises that I do daily should help me become more flexible. While doing the stretches, I realized that while my legs are not very flexible, I have other issues with flexibility. My body may not be very flexible, but neither is my mind. We often refer to someone as stubborn or headstrong. In a more flattering way, we may refer to them as uncompromising, determined, or persistent. We, as Christians, often look at these traits as positive and they can be. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 (ISV), Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord.” I believe that the Bible is firm and unchangeable. It contains God’s truth and His principles. But sometimes, that belief can make me very inflexible.
We may think that we must remain faithful to principles and convictions, regardless of the opinion of others. But many Christians with this mindset bully others or are perpetually angry because they do not like what is going on. I recently heard an acronym that I want to adapt and use here; my apologies, Jeri. These people are cave people, that is, Christians Against Virtually Everything. There is a time to take a moral stand, but we should still be salt and light, and the only way to do that is to be flexible in the way we see things.
Flexibility, the ability to change directions quickly and compromise when appropriate, is an admirable quality. Think what would happen if an airplane pilot refused to be flexible and change altitude or direction when advised of a dangerous weather system. Or think about what could happen if car drivers refused to let other people merge into their lanes. Flexibility is necessary, but how should you decide when to be flexible and when to resist change?
Maybe like me, many of you suffer from inflexibility. We have figured out how to live our lives and feel that to be victorious Christians we must be determined and uncompromising. The backbone of our beliefs becomes rigid rules and regulations. We are stubborn in our determination to control life’s course and outcome.
Often I have tried to maintain control over my life instead of letting God be in control. I thought I had life all figured out and was sure how God needed to answer my prayers. Yet rarely does life work the way I want it to or think it should. I am too inflexible. I like the answer to inflexibility given by the Christian author, Susan Lenzkes. She says, “there is a cure. Each time life throws us a punch, we can do a deep-knee bend, forcing our muscles of faith, hope and understanding to stretch.” She goes on to say, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken. No, that’s not one of Jesus’ Beatitudes, but it is an attitude that makes all the difference in your emotional and spiritual health.”
Gentle Reader, are you a flexible person? Spiritual flexibility comes from exercising our faith and trust in God, not from an unyielding belief. We have to be accommodating and eliminate pride in our rigid rules and regulations. Inflexible Christians are not good witnesses to the world. Trillia Newbell says it this way; “What is so strange to me is people believe that by fighting, they are being faithful. It’s hard to convince someone that they may need to be slow to speak and to tame their tongue if they think they’re right. And if they think they’re fighting for Jesus.” Don’t be a cave person. Make it your goal to be flexible.