Ever since I had children and got into the lovely habit of holding a baby in one arm, with a bottle in the hand of that same arm, with my phone wedged between my ear and my shoulder so that my other hand could be free to push the swing, I have had issues with my posture. Alignment issues, let’s just say. Now, even 6 years since my last bottle-feeding, I am only just beginning to straighten up. And that is only thanks to my husband. You see, for my 42nd birthday, my husband gave me an unlimited month pass to this new exercise place. (I did not take this personally. He is an exercise junky while I am a coffee/chocolate/cheese junky. I give chocolates and cookies to make people feel good. He gives gym passes. It is what it is.) Nonetheless, because this pass would expire after one month, I felt like I had to really get in there and make the most of it. Plus, I knew that exercise was – in fact - a good thing, if slightly foreign to my daily routine. After all, it is pretty much universally accepted that IF you exercise, THEN you feel better, healthier. Although I committed to attend frequently, I was still of the attitude that there is no way you will convert me to one of you exercise people, I am just here for ONE month. You hear me? I will not be sucked into this cult like behavior.
But the funniest thing happened. After several classes, I started to feel better. I felt stronger. My posture improved. I had more energy. I was going so frequently, I had to buy more exercise clothes; hence, to the outside world, I looked different, like an exerciser. I started arranging my schedule so I could make it to more classes, so the patterns of my day changed. I even downloaded the APP that goes with the gym! (Please don’t tell anyone that.) I started thinking about my core/posture muscles as I sat, as I walked, as I stood. I could feel when I was slouching and autocorrect.
At the end of the month, prepare yourself, I SIGNED MYSELF UP FOR ANOTHER MONTH. I know, it is shocking. I am still freaked out at myself. And it all started by giving one class a try.
I tell you this deep and profound story for two reasons. First, to address the IF/THEN parts of scripture and life. I love a conditional sentence. It is absolute. I know what I am getting into. IF you work hard, THEN you do better in school. IF you are kind, THEN you will make friends. The thing is that I knew that if/then of exercise to be true, but I still didn’t want to do it. When we are on the IF side of something, having never tasted how sweet the THEN is, it just seems foreign, ridiculous, big-sigh-eye-roll what-are-they-doing-over-there-anyways? If left alone, we generally don’t want to exercise or be nice when others are not being nice. We don’t like the IF part. We want the THEN without the IF. But if we will submit ourselves to the conditional truth, if we will take the deep breath and readjust ourselves so that we DO the IF, the THEN makes the IF lovely, divine, even pleasurable.
Which brings me to my second reason for telling this story. Posture. It is easier to slouch, it is my habit. It is my habit physically, but it is my habit spiritually also. It is so easy after a lifetime and a culture that encourages spiritual slouching to stay in that hunched over position. It is way easier to go along with what everyone else is doing on Facebook , than it is to gather the Manna, listen to its teachings, mull over its truths, cling to its instructions. But, how much we stand to miss.
Proverbs 2:1-11 gives us a glorious IF/THEN –
(vs. 1-4) IF [you] will:
- receive my sayings
- treasure my commandments within you
- make your ear attentive to wisdom
- incline your heart to understanding
- cry for discernment
- lift your voice for understanding
- seek for [wisdom] as silver
- search for [wisdom] as hidden treasure
Look at this list of Ifs. I don’t know about you, but when I see that list, I see what a spiritual slouch I am. I see that my spiritual posture has been compromised by a life spent trying to ‘fit in’. I am all hunched over looking at the Internet, listening to neighborhood gossip, watching the celebrities, reading the self-help books. And if I am honest, those if’s sounds really hard. They sound like a spiritual version of those yoga positions where all the body parts are going the wrong way.
Let me tell you, the first exercise class was not fun. I did not look like I belonged (wore totally wrong clothes), I did not act like I belonged (no one else had to lie down on the floor to regain breath and balance), I did not feel like I belonged (let’s just call it an internal earthquake). It is not easy to change a life long habit or to start a new one. But GOD! You turn to Him, and He will meets you right where you are. Pray to Him, and He will answer. IF you will just begin to get into this posture of feeding on His word…
(vs. 5) THEN you will: DISCOVER THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
This is pretty awesome. I mean, God is all-knowing; so discovering the knowledge of God is a pretty much jackpot. But what is even better is the bonus that follows.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” vs 6 So this is telling me that this discovery of knowledge is GIVEN straight from the mouth of Jesus. These Proverbs that are available to everyone, shouted from the town square (Prov. 1: 20) all of the sudden get personal. As I get into this posture of Ifs, I receive wisdom from God’s mouth straight to my heart. And as we grow in wisdom, maintaining this new posture as we come and as we go, we find He is always there, protecting, guiding, teaching. Note the present tense of these verses:
( vs. 7) He stores up wisdom for the upright
(vs. 7) He is a shield to those who walk in integrity
(vs. 8) Guarding the paths of justice
(vs. 8) He preserves the way of His godly ones
I just love that this wisdom thing isn’t a one-time delivery. Because then I would surely ask, what am I supposed to do with this? Just as I will wait some time before I pass on marital wisdom to my 9 year old son, God remains with us as we walk, as we seek, as we live – ready to give us wisdom as we need it.
And as we walk with Jesus eager for His wisdom, desiring His presence, longing for His guidance, the posture that once seemed foreign, awkward, uncomfortable becomes pleasurable. “Wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” Vs. 10
God’s presence does not come with the requirement of perfection. It starts with just a tilt of the heart, a tiny leaning of the ears, a mere shift of the eyes… And as we tilt, lean, shift, He enters in. And we see that the IF was part of the THEN all along.
Some at-home exercises for us slouchers…
- During my class, the teacher reminds us to suck in our tummies, spread our shoulders, tighten our fanny… With each reminder, I get into a better position, one that works by body harder, makes it stronger. Look at that list of ifs as a way of adjusting your spiritual posture. What is one adjustment you/I can make to change our daily posture away from a contorted one feeding on the world to a righteous one searching for God?
- What is one thing that I am seeking desperately – “successful” children, popularity, wealth – that has my spiritual posture contorted? And what if I spent that kind of energy seeking for wisdom?