on physical therapy, bad habits and 27

I started physical therapy today.

My left knee has been sore since about halfway through marathon training this fall, and as my stubborn self is apt to do, I threw on a brace and downed a few Aleve and kept running.

I always keep running.

Enter December, and I found myself limp-running on a treadmill back home, and decided it was time for a rest. It was a glorious four weeks, refreshing my body and spirit and soul the way that only home can do - breathing in deep the old and lovely in preparation for the new year, a year that will bring a million more changes in the everyday and a few great big ones that will re-frame our whole life, just a few hundred miles east of here.

The January snow (and snow and snow and snow) kept me inside, but the few times I tried to run, I had to stop. Pain won, and I sulked my empty evenings away until Spring dawned and the siren call of the pavement and warm sun became too much for me too avoid. I relented. To the doctor I went, and received the unsatisfying diagnosis of - I'm amazed you ran a marathon on this leg.

I wasn't, of course, after a high-ankle-sprain-ignored in college turned into the terrifying discovery a few months later that I could no longer wiggle the toes on my left foot. My muscles had locked up and down, and no amount of straining could get those darn little digits to budge.

And so here we are now, 4 months removed from a marathon with the same type of diagnosis - hyper-stubbornus-ladyoidism, they should call it. Or just plain old bad habits.

I would have preferred a "real" injury, I suppose. Something traumatic and treatable, like a broken leg. Clean. Easy. Clear path to recovery.

But my leg is not broken, the doctor said. We just have to fix those bad habits.

And so this morning, I lay on a black table-bed with a flat sheet draped across it - as if it would stay in place as I writhed all over, being stretched and pushed and popped. (It didn't, but rather it bunched up under me the whole time, requiring me to reposition it over and over again as my mood disintegrated throughout the appointment.)

Instead of an easy fix, mine is a prescription of the hardest kind:

clamshells: (noun) torture masquerading as physical therapy

clamshells: (noun) torture masquerading as physical therapy

stretching

patience

strength training

slow down

30 clamshells on each side until you're too tired to keep going (THE WORST)

 

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And as I lay there with a stranger pulling my feet in all kinds of funny directions, and I felt the deep burn of a good stretch - the kind that hurts and heals at the same time, I wondered about my other bad habits, the other ways I've fallen into things that are comfortable and sufficient - that will get me across the finish line, but perhaps not in the healthiest way.

And oh, that list goes on and on and on.

Like how sometimes I worry that my seminary studies are so frantic, so full, so rushed that perhaps I'm spending a lot of time learning about God and not really learning to know him. And how I can possibly spend the vast majority of my working and studying hours thinking about God and his Word, and how I can still feel so very far away from him all the time. But it's easy to think I'm spending enough time with him when all my time is for him, right?

And so as I dig deep to find the patience I need to retrain my body, maybe I can also seek the patience I need to retrain my mind. To spend the long hours it requires to build a relationship with the Creator. There is no magical diagnosis, no quick surgery to fix this broken heart of mine - the cure for a sin-shaped posture is not an easy one. We just have to fix those bad habits.

Thankfully, we serve a steadfast God - who will always be right there, waiting with the grace we need to take the next step toward him. It is not jumping off a cliff into the raging waters of a spiritual life. It is, to borrow from Eugene Peterson, a long obedience in the same direction. A marathon, not a sprint. Physical therapy, not a quick fix.

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I turn 27 today. That's a number that feels outrageously foreign, definitively "late-20s", and life looks oh-so-different now than I ever thought it would. But that's the funny thing about this path that I'm on - I'll keep running, keep fighting for every ounce of daylight and every extra mile, and keep being surprised at the top of the next hill at what appears below.

But as this new-to-me year starts, my gift to myself is physical therapy. A chance to reshape the way my feet strike the ground, and perhaps also the way my heart orients each morning.

 

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For me, for 27 -

Yahweh, the Lord, is a kind and merciful God. He is slow to become angry. He is full of great love. He can be trusted.  He shows his faithful love to thousands of people."

Exodus 24:6-7 {ERV}