Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Bad back gymnastics

ANYONE PEERING THROUGH the window when they passed our house recently might have thought I had taken up ballet. They would have seen me pivoting at the waist with my arms out to the side and one leg straight out behind me, looking somewhat like a nodding donkey as I lowered my face gingerly toward the ground.

No, this was not Butcher barre. It was “bad back gymnastics,” minimizing my bending as the only way to reduce the pain involved in reaching down to pick up something from the floor. If such a maneuver were necessary, I’d check to see if there was anything else I needed to do while I was down there. Anything to avoid having to repeat the movement.

Thankfully, that pulled muscle didn’t last too long. But I lived with it long enough to be appreciative of the pain-free flexibility I usually enjoy. For just a few days, I was aware of what life must be like for those who suffer chronic, enduring pain or who are physically incapacitated in some way.

Through that experience, I was reminded just how much I take for granted, and how just a slight crimp in my life can put everything into better perspective. Take something like an excruciating toothache. If you’ve got something wrong that only a session in the dentist’s chair is going to fix, suddenly nothing else really matters, right? Until you can find relief from that pain, everything else takes a back seat.

Pulled backs and tender teeth are only minor and temporary disruptions. What about when something major and permanent comes along? A loved one receives a terminal diagnosis. A dear one loses their life. Divorce. Downsizing at work. Depression. All of a sudden what seemed to matter oh so much is not so much of a big deal anymore.

I wouldn’t wish any of those circumstances on anyone, but it is good to be reminded: so much of what we can get all worked up about isn’t really that earth-shatteringly important, at the end of the day. I’m not saying those things are without any significance; I don’t buy into the “Live every day as though it were your last” philosophy. If we all did that, not much would ever get done around here. We’d all be busy kicking back and having fun.

You don’t need to wait to suffer an injury to get a fresh perspective on what really matters. You can choose to take a few minutes each day just to be grateful for some of the simple things it is so easy to take for granted. As our pastor reminded us this week, it’s good for us “to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). The reason is found in the second part of the verse: “that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Being wise requires having a proper perspective on life.

I remember author Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) writing about how he bought a burial plot and would take a lawn chair out there sometimes to just sit and think, aware that he’d be spending more time under that patch of earth than on top of it.

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