Bent and Broken
And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. Luke 13:11
“You should try acupuncture. It worked wonders for my friend.”
“I can recommend a good chiropractor.”
“I bet a massage would help. Have you tried that yet?”
“I have some natural remedies that I am pretty sure will help.”
“Have you tried stretching? What about Yoga?”
“Oh man, that exact same thing happened to me and I had to have surgery.”
The advice came at me fast and furiously after I finally broke down and told a few people that I couldn’t move my left arm behind my back past my left hip or raise it above 90 degrees in front of me. I couldn’t reach out of the car window, turn the steering wheel in one fluid motion, or put anything on a shelf in the kitchen using my left arm. But, all of that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst part was the non-stop excruciating pain that kept me awake at night and nagged at me all day long. After silently enduring the discomfort for several months, I was desperate for a solution.
In Luke 13 we meet a woman who is desperately looking for healing from a burden she has been carrying for 18 years. A burden so great, she can’t stand up straight (Luke 13:11). I am sure during those 18 years she heard ever piece of advice on how she could be healed, but none of them worked. I can imagine her dragging her bent and broken body from one place to another hoping that this time the cure would work. Ultimately, it is the touch of Jesus that takes her burden away and brings her healing.
I love that Jesus stops in the middle of his teaching in the synagogue and sees the woman. He notices her. He calls her over. He tells her she is free. He touches her and heals her. Completely. Totally. Fully. Freely. This act reassures me of the fact that no matter how invisible I feel in my pain or illness, God sees me. He cares. He desires to heal me completely. He wants to make me whole. He wants to straighten the bent places in my life. This doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t seek the earthly help that I need when I am sick. I may need a physician, surgeon, or psychiatrist to treat my earthly ailments, but ultimately my broken and bent places can only be fixed by Jesus.
So where do you go when you are stooped over under the weight of a heavy burden? Do you turn to your friends for answers? Counselors? Doctors? Life coaches? Medication? Isolation? Where do you go when you need a healing touch? Please, seek the help you need, but ultimately bring your broken and bent places to the one who can straighten them with his touch.
As for me, I finally went to the orthopedic doctor. I didn’t have to have surgery, but I did spend five months in physical therapy. Two years later, I am pretty close to having 100% mobility and strength in my left arm with just a few twinges of minor discomfort, but believe me, I am keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t ever “freeze” again.
I’m Just Going to Close My Eyes for a Minute
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 31
I was just going to close my eyes for a few minutes and rest before I started writing. “Baby you ready to go to bed?” was the next thing I heard. The first full week back to school teaching had drained me. Early risings, 10 hour days at school, plus moving our son into his dorm the night before had wiped me out. My physical body needed rest.
When I read Isaiah 40:29-31, I just want to bottle up the energy that God is offering and dip into it when I need a little extra boost on those bone weary days of life.
As women, many of us are tired. We are busy. We are overextended. We are overworked. We are weary. Spouses wear us out. Littles wear us out. Adolescents wear us out. Aging parents wear us out. Our plates of responsibility are full and we keep adding more.
We are frantically seeking a solution to the exhaustion we feel. The quick fix of caffeine only lasts for a little while. Organization and planning only keep the plates we have spinning from falling for a brief moment until that unexpected plate is added. We keep wanting to do more and feel energized while doing it, but we don’t. We are desperate for an unending supply of strength and energy. “If I just close my eyes for a minute...then I can….”
God tells us strength does not come from within us. It comes from him. But, it’s not a magic potion to take when we are overwhelmed by all the things we have added to our agendas. It is a strength that comes through rest. Rest in a relationship that has grown over time. A relationship built on trust in a God we know will to take care of our needs and the loved ones in our lives. It comes from being in community with his people on a regular basis (Isaiah 58:13-14). It comes from doing life his way, not ours.
Does this mean that if I am walking with Jesus I will never be tired? Of course not, we are women after all. But, it does means I will have the strength to face what my day brings as well as the energy I need to complete the tasks he calls me to do as I follow him. The promise in Isaiah 40: 31 is “but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
When I start to get overwhelmed and tired, maybe I need to take a moment and look at the items on my to do list and see which ones are mine and which one are God’s. Maybe I need to say “no” to a few things, ask for help, or I might just need to take a nap.
Things to Ponder: Feeling overloaded? Take some time to sit down with your schedule and have a conversation with God about what you are doing. Is there something you need to let go of? Is there something you need to ask for help with? Have you made space for him on a regular basis?
Maybe you need to take some time for yourself and rest today-maybe even take a nap.
Three of My Closest Friends
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Psalm 37:7
The anxiety in the building was palpable. Heads down, eyes darting back and forth as bodies scurried from one destination to the next, the strain of the spoken and unspoken expectations was visible on every face. It was Friday. The Friday before the first day of school and teachers were scrambling. The stress could be wrung out of the building like water from a wet rag. The sounds of it dripped in the hallways: “I’ll never get it all done.” “How can they expect me to do that too?” “I need a few more days to get everything ready.” “Summer went way too fast.” The feelings of it silently twisted inside: “Will I be effective this year?” “How am I going to meet the needs of this group of kids?” “I am overwhelmed.”
Worry. Anxiety. Fret. Three close friends to all of us. As women, especially those of us who are care givers, have a natural inclination to meet these friends on a regular basis. We tend to find it easier to hang out with them than the friends of patience, peace, and trust.
So, how do we deal with those pesky circumstances like misplaced car keys that lead us to fret?
First we need to be still. Both Psalm 37:10 and 46:10 start with “Be still.” Why? One we can know that he is God. Second, it calms us down. When we find ourselves fretting about something we need to stop, take a deep breath and calm down.
Next, we need to be patient. We need to learn to wait. We can’t do everything all at once or have everything be exactly the way we want it. Our circumstances won’t change overnight. Our problems can’t be solved in a minute. We have to trust the One who is truly in control to complete the work he has begun in us and in those around us (Philippians 1:6).
Third, we need to trust God’s plan and provision. If we are following him, we are right where we need to be right when we need to be there. We are not lost to him. We are not hidden from him. He knows the way we take (Job 23:10).
Last, we have to stop fretting. We have to stop worrying about “the other guy”. The neighbor with the better car, the friend with the smarter kids, the teacher with the cuter classroom, the gym instructor with the more defined shoulders and biceps. Personally, I had get off Pinterest because I felt inferior in my homemaking abilities as I scrolled through picture after beautiful picture on the trending home décor boards.
Ladies, it’s time for us to make new friends. Worry, anxiety, and fretting are not good for us. We need to stop hanging out with them and make new friends. We need to become friends with patience, peace, and trust. The best way to get to know them? Through the One who knows them best and loves to freely share them with others. So, sweet friends let’s spend some time with Him today and truly get to know His good friends.
Things to ponder: What are you fretting about that you need to give to Jesus? Pray about it. Be still for 5 minutes today just thinking about the good things God has done for you. Get rid of one thing today that causes you anxiety or worry.
Growing Up Under Blue Light Laws
Exodus 34:21, 3:2-3
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. Exodus 34:21a
I was so bored. I had played with my Barbies for what seemed like hours. Every comic book had been read, and three channels of television couldn’t satisfy my restless soul. The hands on the clock only flickered and I felt as if I was dying a slow painful death all before 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
It was Sunday and I dreaded Sunday afternoons growing up. No mall. No grocery store. No movies. Nothing. My tender youth was marked by living under the constraints of blue laws on Sundays. Blue laws legally required retail businesses to be closed on Sundays which meant I was trapped at home with nowhere to go every Sunday after church. I was forced to rest.
In Exodus 34: 21, God put similar restraints on the Israelites. He commanded them “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” No work. No plowing. No harvesting. No fire building. No work. None. None for you. None for you servants. None for the immigrants. None. Why? So we could be bored out of minds because we have “nothing to do” like me during my childhood. No. He commands it so we can “have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord.”
As a child, I didn’t understand what God meant by rest on the Sabbath. To me, forced quiet and lack of activity was a punishment, not a reward. But God knew I needed more than being busy all the time in order to grow up healthy in all aspects of my life. Rest is a key ingredient to physical, mental and spiritual healthy living.
First, it restores our bodies physically. Just 20 minutes of quiet rest lowers our heart rate and allows our body to reset from the stress of our daily work.
Next, it quiets our minds and allows us to process our thoughts and feelings. Our brains need downtime in order to sort through and process all the details that bombard it daily. More productivity and creativity come after our brains have had time to rest.
And last, rest allows us to hear God. Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” I can’t hear God’s voice if my life is filled to the brim with too much stuff. God’s voice is in the quiet whispers not the raging storms (I Kings 19:12). I have to make time to be still if I am going to fully experience God’s peace and presence in my life.
The grown up me longs for the good old days when someone made me rest. No one tells me to stop working anymore. My television has so many more channels than just three. The stores are always open and I always seem to need something. It’s time for me to place some “blue light laws” on my own life and make time for my body, mind and soul to rest.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.