Back again so soon?

As a kid it didn’t hurt, but I was warned time and again.  Told to stand up straight.  Over and over.  Again and again.  Forced my shoulders back.  But always dropped them in a few seconds.  Was warned my lungs would crumple up.  Warned about braces.  I ignored.  Offended.

Started popping my neck.  Turning my head around and leaning it from side to side.  Angry.  Angry there wasn’t even a brace to help me.

First time I caught glimpse of myself in a video feed, I thought, I look like Gollum.  I was twelve or thirteen, and I looked like Gollum.  What was I to do with myself after that?  Ashamed.

Carried too much heaviness in my backpack on a trip.  Almost numbing, draining, tingling-heavy pain.  Laying on a bed at night.  Hurting.

Popping my shoulder.  Still sloped.  Then chiropractor visits.  Exercise, but only for a little while.  Back to same old, drooped over me.  Failing.  But hopeful.

Time and time again slipping, slipping.  Failing, failing.

Physical therapy was the first time it sunk in for sure.  Therapist told me no perfect posture in my future.  I’d never be straight up and down.  No matter how hard I tried.  It’d all be damage control.  My shoulders would always be curved.  I’d always be, at the very least, slightly sloped.  Indignant.

Worse pain.  Shooting pains up my neck.  Back to the chiropractor.  On and off, years and years.  Never sticking to exercises.  Giving up even starting another round of exercises I knew I’d quit.  Years and years.  Telltale pains in knee and hip.  Nerve pains at night.  Plurasy.  More reluctance to exercise.  No internet research yielding cure.  Discouraged.

And all the time my neck heavier and heavier.  Harder and harder to lift my head.  Less and less feeling of hope to hold up my head.  Knowing what happens in old age to those bent over, how they look, how they walk.  Fear.

And right now, the same old pain.  It’s my back again.

Born with mild kyphosis, and years of forward neck taking its toll, I struggle to stand up straight.  Posture is illusory.  I know what it looks like to have a beautiful spine; I just don’t get mine to look like it.  It almost feels like my head is a sandbag and my neck is a rope, and my neck is supposed to be holding my head up.

Being told to stand up straight frustrates me.  Seeing other people stand up straight doesn’t encourage me.  I feel a bit like Gollum when he looks at Frodo and Sam, when Sam talks about good in the world, and Gollum’s eyes tell the story of his heart, But it’s not for me.

I feel as though I cannot make my back do my will.  It is too tempting, too easy to slump.  And with a record of strikes in my tries to fight the downward pull, I feel rather hopeless.

But not entirely.

One day, a couple years ago, I went to a man who taught posture in a way I wasn’t familiar.  He taught by relaxing, not jerking, pulling, or tensing.  He taught by gently touching parts of my back.  Within a few minutes of the very first visit, I looked at myself in the mirror and could not believe the transformation.  For the very first time in my life, I was standing up straightStraight.  Without tearing muscle or any great effort from me, there I was, standing up straight as a pin.

I still do not stand up straight.  I feel tense about trying to stand up straight, and procrastinate on when I start helping my posture, or for a short burst I try to force myself upright.  And I fail once more.

But I know it can be a different way.

It was only when I received a moment of grace, of something other than what I had in my own strength, and perceived, in the quest for posture, a love for uprightness and me and not just a love for uprightness . . that I found my spine straight.

I find in this a curious metaphor, a little like what it is like to have a sin nature.

Though we can defend it, or ignore it, or make resolutions about what we will never keep, or give up on ever curing it, we find in none of these the peace we seek, and we only grow worse.

Only when we give ourselves over to Christ, who loves righteousness and us, do we have the hope for a holy life . . and the ultimate snapping of our sin nature, by the work of Christ, not us.

The gentle touch of His nail-pierced hand in our lives reflects to us that He has the strength we need to battle our sin nature, and He has the power to destroy it forever . . so we can live upright starting right now.

What a delight to know the biggest weight of my life is already taken care of.  Though I may have a sandbag head, I do not have a sandbag soul any longer.  I am free.

It’s time to stop blaming, hiding, and despairing in our sin nature.  It is time to surrender to the grace of Christ.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4, ESV)

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Published in: on January 11, 2013 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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