“Relax” he signed to me again, appropriately the same hand signal as “hang loose.” I smiled and nodded, but I knew I was screwed. This is as relaxed as it gets, dude.
The dude was an indoor skydiving instructor. He’d told us in the beginning the key to successful flying is staying relaxed, so I instantly knew I was in trouble. The most relaxed I do is not squeezing my arm tightly enough to leave bruises (it’s happened before). I decided after the excursion that the for real skydiving I did last year was easier, since all I had to do was plummet through the air with another dude strapped to my back. None of this “hang loose” stuff.
Massage therapists have also yelled (read: slight exaggeration) at me for my inability to relax. I think I’m helping by holding my leg up for them…apparently not. So hard to please people these days. 😉
My boxing coach was the first to say “relax as much as you can” to me. She was the first to see the why behind the tightly-coiled muscles…I was self-protecting. She went on to say – as she yanked and pulled on my lats, loosening my pain-emitting left shoulder – that it’s hard to give up control of our limbs, especially if we had insecurities in our past. Just last night, after working some more on my improving but sometimes still screaming shoulder, she said I’m constantly sub-consciously guarding with that shoulder (makes sense. The heart’s on the left) and she doesn’t know how to get me to give it up.
Isn’t it funny how the very things we use to protect ourselves can cause the most pain? That’s because we were never meant to save ourselves, or others. There’s only One who can heal the original wound and free us from our self-medicating. But I digress.
Indoor skydiving. It’s fun. You should do it. If you struggle with relaxing like I do, then do the for-real skydiving. Also fun. You should do it. Moving on.
Sometimes it’d be really great to full-out relax mind, body, and emotions. The wear and tear get to me. Song lyrics often flit through my mind, and one I’ve related to since 1995 is Jars of Clay’s “He” from their self-titled album, same year: “Exhaustion takes over / Will this someday be over?” For 21 years I’ve known exactly what they meant. It’s when life itself, the things you can’t escape, wear you down. It’s not, “I’m tired of this. I think I’ll stop now.” It’s when you’re weary in your bones, body and soul, from something you can’t quit, but must push through or wait to end. A painful past that taints your present. A loved one making harmful decisions. Chronic pain or illness. A seemingly impossible dream. Your own weaknesses and shortcomings that frustrate you. I can relate! And often I want to quit.
I actually say, almost daily, “I give up.” I don’t – I know I don’t – but I say it to vent steam, to alleviate the pressure. The exhaustion. Will this someday be over?
Yes. That’s the beauty of getting older and racking up more experiences. I know it will. It’s a lie that says it will always be this way. And even if it WILL, God is still good and working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). I can repeat negative, feelings-based things (and admittedly, I often do) like, “I’ll never change, they’ll never change, it will never change. I’ll always hurt. It’ll never get better. It’s hopeless). OR I could speak the truth. I can speak back to my feelings, which are fickle and easily swayed:
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.” Galations 6:9, MSG
I don’t have to listen to my defeated feelings. I can choose the truth in the Word: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8, MSG
NOTHING is impossible or beyond His lavish provision: “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37, MSG
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20, MSG
Every story containing Jesus tells me His desire is to heal and restore people’s bodies, minds, and souls. No one – myself included – is beyond His ability or desire to heal.
I can even tell my guard-dog shoulder to relax: “And you? Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it’s all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward.” Daniel 12:13, MSG
A flight instructor’s “hang loose” signal can’t get me to relax, but God’s signals through His Word? Yeah, I can exhale that tension now. Yeah, I can find rest and strength in the exhaustion.
And you can, too.