Our God is responsive. He is empathetic and His posture towards us is confident grace, gentle and full of power. He is sufficient and His covenant is strong love. The Spirit led me into a new level of healing this week, a grace that He has been preparing me for 12 years. The Grace itself has always been prepared, always active in my life. It was my heart that needed the preparation. At the rate we believe and accept Love determines the healing that we experience.
For 2018, I claimed the promise of “storehouses of abundant goodness” found in Psalm 31:19 and man, His gladness in fullfilling that promise has been shining on me like the sun. He’s on a rampage at this point, and my only responsibility has been to bask in the warmth.
I’ve experienced chronic neck pain for 12 years. Since about 13 years old, I’ve had headaches and neck and shoulder tension caused by misalignment in my neck. I have gone to chiropractors and massage therapists for years. I’ve been told this misalignment was originally caused by heading the soccerball during my years as an athlete. Different things have brought relief, like water pillows and neck/shoulder yoga routines. I’m thankful to say this pain has obviously not kept me from living a full, fruitful life. I’ve just learned to live with the tension.
Around the same age of 13 years old was when I began wrestling with the common teenage struggle of body image. I don’t like calling it “common” because that sounds like “normal” making it something we should accept as a part of life. We shouldn’t. The ugly roots that negative image of the body takes in your heart, mind, and even physical frame are vicious and take years to pry out. Please don’t stand for it.
My journey to healing from this negative view of my body began around the age of 17. The Spirit has restored so much. I have developed healthy patterns of exercise and my relationship with food is vibrant. If I’m being honest, I would have told you I was completely free of the negative patterns that held me and in many ways I am, but this past Wednesday evening, April 18, I was shown there is always more healing to embrace, always more freedom to discover.
I had purchased a Groupon for a Thai massage and my appointment was Wednesday. As I always do, I requested special attention to be given to my neck and shoulders, my source of 12 years of pain. Keep in mind, I have been to upwards of ten chiropractors, sports therapists, and massage therapists, and no one has ever said to me what this therapist said.
It started with him encouraging me to breathe deeply. That was my only responsibility, to focus on the breath. When he began working on my neck he said, ever so flippantly, “You’re breathing with your throat. These muscles of tension on either side of your neck are because you’re breathing through your throat instead of your diaphragm. Stick out that belly and breath.” I began to do so easily, because this inflation of the tummy is a familiar breathing practice in yoga. As he continued to encourage me to breath this way, I laughed to myself as I realized that I had not carried this part of my practice into the other 23 hours of my day.
What the therapist said next is what took my breath away. He encouraged me in the speed that I had begun breathing correctly and then said, “You breath with your throat because you’re trying to maintain your athletic frame. You don’t want people to see your belly.” That was it, a simple observation that led me to a deeper goodness I hadn’t even known was there, waiting, right in my tummy.
My neck pain started when I was 13. I was playing soccer at the time, yes, but that was also when I sunk into my battle with body image. I have experienced much healing – mind, soul, and body – but when the therapist observed my posture in connection to how I feel my body should look, I sat in shock because I suddenly knew that I had been doing it for 12 years. I was still holding, in the middle of my spirit, the source of my insecurity, and with it, a whole lot of anxiety, expectation, and bondage. Yes, I have developed healthy habits but in that moment the Spirit of God invited me to embrace an openness in my physical posture to even more freedom. This unhinged a mental block for me of intentional care for the part of my body that I have always wanted to hide. My stomach is strong. It does so much for me every day. It deserves to be loved and cared for, not shamed and hidden.
It’s laughably simple, that a change as small as how I breath could hold so much significance but I think that’s the most beautiful part of all. The simplicity is a reminder of how intricately involved Jesus has been in my healing from the start. Only He could have known to have this therapist, who I have never seen before, instruct me to make this tiny, monumental shift in my body. His nearness is astounding. I have received a gift of a way to tell my body, with literally every breath I take, that I love it. This temple deserves to be celebrated by the one it was gifted to, and I will celebrate. I will honor it with every breath.
There will always be more healing for me and there will always be more healing for you. We never arrive and what more hopeful realization to have and to remind each other of always. There’s always more because He’s always sufficient. On a simple Wednesday night, I was made aware of one more way I could embrace freedom and healing in Christ. The story in scripture of the woman who suffered from the discharge of blood has become my power story. Her suffering also lasted for 12 years and in her posture of reaching to Jesus in faith I see my own heart. The words of Jesus to her have become His words to me, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed.” So it is, and now I will embrace it. To know this call to my soul to “be FREE from my infirmities” for the Lord has said it and so shall it be.