I once had a pastor who loved to talk about stretching.
Not like downward dog yoga stretching, more like standing-on-tiptoes-and-reaching-a-book-off-the-top-shelf stretching.
Stretching, as in, moving beyond what you thought was possible.
He was generally talking about being uncomfortable in a situation and choosing to do the right thing. That stretches a person.
Or hardships. Those are stretching experiences — when we don’t allow them to make us brittle.
I was thinking about stretching the other day at a swim meet while watching swimmers coming into the wall. The person who won the race — often by a mere fraction of a second — was the one who reached the longest and fastest, stretching their fingers to touch the pad first.
Regular stretching can lead to increased flexibility.
An interesting thing about flexibility is that of all the types of fitness, it takes the longest to gain, but it also stays with a person the longest. A person can build up cardio ability relatively quickly, but, when aerobic exercise is abandoned, cardio gains leave fairly quickly. Flexibility, on the other hand, can take months to years of consistent stretching to improve, but that increased flexibility also lasts a loooooong time.
The other day I read this:
When the monasteries of the Middle Ages lost their fervor, the last observance that ceased to be properly carried out was the choral office. (Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer)
Regularly-practiced liturgy sticks.
And yet, liturgy is certainly NOT flexibility.
Liturgy is like the roots of a tree that stretch down, down, down to water in the driest of seasons.
Flexibility is like the tree branches reaching up, up, up, reaching for the sun and sky and rain, moving with the wind.
Blessed are those who stretch both up and down. They gain both flexibility and roots.
Side note: this piece has sat in my draft folder for, um, I don’t know how long. Part of me wants to finish strong — finish these darn beatitudes that sounded like such a good idea at the time, but now feel like a weight.
Golly, it’s been a tough few months!
Perhaps, sometimes, finishing strong simply means finishing. I stare at my drafts and don’t know how to finish them.
I’ll be that girl crawling across the finish line —
So forgive the upcoming half-written beatitudes.
But, dog-gone it, I’m going to finish.
It’s a stretching experience, I suppose.