Stretch Yourself

A few months ago I was spending time with one of my very best friends, when she suddenly announced that “we” were going to get in shape together, and among her many plans for diet and exercise was one little nugget that made me cringe. “That’s it!” she said with enthusiasm, “We’re going to do 50 crunches a day every day from now on!”

I have to admit I laughed. I told her there was no way on God’s green earth that I was capable of 50 crunches. “That’s no problem!” she said, “You can work up to it! Come on, Paula – we can do this!”

I groaned a little inside, but since I’ve never been good at saying no to my friends, I finally agreed to do the crunches – and I did. I didn’t do them every day – it was 3 times a week, and it took me a week or two to build  up to 50, but eventually I got there.  And once I did, I have to admit I was kind of proud of myself.

And then one night I woke up in excruciating pain. Every muscle in my abdomen was cramping at the same time, and I couldn’t relax them enough to uncurl myself out of the fetal position. The problem, of course, was that I  had spent so much time focusing on working those muscles, but I’d never bothered to take the time to stretch them.  For a while I got away with it. They even got stronger. But eventually it all caught up with me, and the result was a night of serious pain and very little sleep as I tried to undo the damage, release the tension, and relax the muscles.

Now that’s a relatively simple anecdote – but it illustrates an important and relevant point.

You see, the crunches were a good thing. They took work and effort, and I took them seriously. They made me stronger and I found a moderate level of success in doing them. But that only took me so far before it all backfired. Because all of that effort and work was pointed in only one direction, the muscles in my body eventually rebelled. There was only so much work they could handle before they “broke” under the tension.

They needed to stretch. They needed to be pulled in unfamiliar directions, forced to move in a new way. Without that key component, all of the time and effort I’d put into working those muscles proved pointless. I hit a brick wall (or more, it hit me – in the stomach – at three in the morning).

I think that this is a truth that we can apply to our lives on a much broader level. Have you been working hard in an area of  your life and just not seeing the results that you want? Have you ever found a moderate degree of success, and wondered how you could ever manage to achieve more? I want to let you in on a little secret that’s not much of a secret – you probably need to stretch. Your life will never really be able to grow and expand until you are willing to push yourself beyond  your limits and move in a new direction.

How often have you talked yourself out of doing something new just because it wasn’t familiar? How often have you decided that it was better to stay where you were comfortable than to venture into the unknown? We do it all the time, and I think it’s because we’d rather remain firmly planted in what we know than try something that might fail; and – GET THIS – we do it even when what we know isn’t working all that well either!

The problems with this kind of thinking is that it always sets us up to fail.

Remember that the familiar things in life can only get you so far. If whatever you’re doing right now isn’t producing the results that you want in your life at the level that you want, then it’s probably time for you to venture out into some new territory. It’s time to try something different.

This isn’t to say that you need to toss aside the things that are working for you. But you can’t allow yourself to get boxed in by the familiar either. By all means, do what works – but make a point to go out and do something new at the same time!

Even the Bible encourages us to go out and to try new things:

As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or  how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 NKJV).

Isn’t that such an encouraging word? This verse is telling us that we can’t know what God plans to use in order to bless our lives, we can’t always see which of our options will produce the best results. That’s why we always need to be willing to try a little of everything. We have to be willing to stretch ourselves a little bit!

 

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