It is good to stretch. It had been three weeks since I last ran (Grandmother dying, Holy Week, and other excuses), so after I jogged a couple of miles yesterday, my body felt it.
I didn’t take time to stretch yesterday, as we had places to go and people to see on this, my last Bethany Fellows retreat. And this morning, after entering into silence, I ran again. And my muscles groaned. They reminded me that it is good to stretch.
Today, I had time to lie in the sun by the lakeshore to stretch. To pay attention to my hamstrings and calves and back. Stretching takes time, and it may cause some discomfort. But it is necessary in order to continue to exercise without pain and injury.
It is good to stretch, not just our bodies, but also our minds. To move beyond our comfort zones and explore new ideas, possibilities, opinions, and more. As a pastor, I enjoy stretching others. I like presenting new ideas and thoughts on scripture and ways of living out our call as Christians, which are counter to culture and maybe out of my congregants’ comfort zones. I like to broaden horizons and challenge the status quo. For others.
Oh, sure I have no problem leaving my neighborhood to enter another, or travel to a foreign land or try new foods. I will stand up to injustice and speak out for the minority. But that is my comfort zone. That is not a stretch for me.
Yesterday, we learned about the Enneagram, a personality test that stands the test of time (like 1000s of years) and is useful and super interesting. I realized that I might be a “9,” a mediator, who likes habit and has no real desire to move up the ladder of “success” if adequately secure. In other words, my personality type chooses to remain comfortable, not wanting to stretch too far.
It is good to stretch. But it takes time, and it may cause discomfort. I am relatively happy with my place in life, but I do want to make a difference in the world (by stretching others perhaps?). But last night, when a friend and colleague told me that I am saving lives (literally) by my work (this blog and such), and that I remind him of a well-known and well-respected church leader, I was humbled, thankful, and scared.
I want to empower others, change lives, etc., and I would love to make a living wage doing so and travel around the country (and world?) to share my story and flip the status quo of consumerism, culturally imposed ideas of beauty, and forced feelings of inadequacy on their heads. And yet, it freaks me out that I might be able to do just that. For in order for me to truly live out my calling, I am going to have to let my self be stretched. To put in the time required to research and respond to the needs of those with whom I minister. I will have to stretch my ideas of what it is to do ministry and work with my spouse about what that looks and feels like. I know I cannot keep on doing the same thing and expect a different result.
But I am comfortable, adequately secure. And stretching may cause discomfort, in my routine, in my family, in my current call. It is so easy to preach, harder to practice. I enjoy stretching others, even as I see it as an after-thought in my life.
In my silence today, I pray that God stretches to me to see beyond the simple pleasures, the life to which I am accustomed, to consider the possibilities for accomplishment. Of course, I know that She has already done so. God may not be in the wind, but the Holy Spirit sure is, and She is speaking to me, stretching my mind, body, and essence. I give thanks for muscles that remind me I need to stretch more than just my running legs. And I give thanks for those who have let me stretch them, even as I have resisted.
May I begin, this day, the practice of silent stretching in hopes of moving beyond adequately secure into spheres unknown.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.