Wednesday, November 22, 2023


My An Arkie's Faith column from the November 22, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

After years of leg and knee pain, I finally decided to have knee replacement surgery. My left knee had been in bad shape for a long time. Three years ago, my X-rays showed that it was bone on bone. At that time, my orthopedic surgeon told me the answer was a complete knee replacement. I resisted the idea, and he said to me that when it hurt bad enough, I would get it replaced. 

In early October, Dr. Hefley performed a total knee replacement on my left knee at the Arkansas Surgical Hospital. The morning after the surgery, the hospital’s physical therapist came into my room and told me it was time for therapy. After she helped me get out of bed, I fumbled with my hospital gown, trying to maintain at least a small amount of modesty.

As I walked down the hospital corridor with my walker, the physical therapist told me the goals for the session and then explained the importance of physical therapy after I went home. At the end of the corridor was an alcove with a couple of steps leading up to a small platform. She instructed me on the best way to step up onto the platform. I would need to master the skill before being released from the hospital.

After the step therapy, we walked back down the corridor towards my room. As we walked, the therapist explained the importance of physical therapy after knee replacement and told me what to expect. “During the first couple of weeks,” she said, “you will be working on things like bending your knee, stretching your knee straight, restoring normal walking, and doing exercises to help you move through the different stages of recovery.”

“As your therapy progresses,” she continued, “you will work on flexibility, range-of-motion, and muscle-strengthening exercises. The goal is not only to strengthen the knee but to slow the development of scar tissue that can reduce your range of motion. The most important aspect of your physical therapy will be range-of-motion exercises—active knee bending and straightening help to improve pain and swelling. Your physical therapist will safely guide you through exercises to restore your knee range of motion. Movement and flexibility are key to a good recovery.”

After going home from the hospital and starting physical therapy in Mena, it became evident how stiff and inflexible my knee was. I had a poor range of motion in my knee and was not able to bend it easily. Physical therapy and the stretching exercises that I did daily helped me become more flexible. After several weeks of treatment, my therapist was happy with the range of motion restored to my knee.

While doing the stretching exercises, 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. As Christians, we often see 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 opinions 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 I want to adapt and use here. 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 how we see things.

Flexibility, the ability to quickly change directions and compromise when appropriate, is admirable. 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 figured out everything and knew how God needed to answer my prayers. Yet, life rarely works how 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 must be accommodating and eliminate pride in our rigid rules and regulations. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” James 1:19,20 (NLT)

Inflexible Christians are not good witnesses to the world. Trillia Newbell explains 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 quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 

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