I've been going to the chiropractor for a few months now in an effort to fix a kink in my back that first appeared last November. X-rays showed a perfectly aligned spine, so the pain was determined to be muscular. Good news, for sure. Except that the tight knot in my left middle back continued to be a nuisance, not tied to any specific activity that I could figure out. It would just appear. I noticed it every morning as I merged on the interstate - my range of motion was significantly decreased because of the stiffness and pain around this area.
After several weeks of treatment, I went in one Monday morning after waking up with the worst pain I'd had since the initial event in November. As my doctor and I discussed reasons for the problem, we ruled out just about everything. Then he asked me how I sleep. I demonstrated the twist of half-stomach, half-side, one leg hiked up, one arm up under the pillow contortion that for whatever reason is the most comfortable way for me to fall asleep.
We hit on something here. He showed me exactly how that motion, the very one I spend 6-8 hours in every night, is the culprit for the horrible kink. Seriously?! That's it?! Well, that's an easy fix.
Or is it?
We talked about healthy positions for my body to spend a night's sleep. He told me to try it out for a week. I soon discovered this was harder than I thought. My body wasn't very happy about falling asleep in a position other than the trained uber-comfortable one. Normally I fall asleep within a minute or two of laying down. But in this new position, I'd lay there awake for a half-hour just waiting for my body to surrender. It finally would. But I would wake a few hours later to find myself in a twisted knot again. Reposition. Fall back asleep.
It was a frustrating sleepless week.
For some reason, when I'm most tired - which is generally every night I fall into bed - I slip into this position without thought. It's comfortable in the beginning, but 8 hours later, my back is oh-so-unhappy.
There is something to be said for muscle memory. I have been spending the past few weeks retraining my body to sleep in ways that are beneficial to my spine. It's taken work, but I am sleeping well again. I notice, however, that those nights I'm more tired than normal, my body fights to go back to its old habit.
I think this is so similar to our spiritual life. The Holy Spirit convicts us of some area of our life we need to get into submission. We train, fail, train again. It takes time and repetition. We so easily slip back into old habits and patterns, having to mentally refocus to get back on track. And when we are most weary, stressed, or stretched is when we are likely to slip the quickest.
It was a reminder to me to be rested. In every sense of the word. In sleep. In time with God. In eating. It's a set-up for success.
And as those habits become long-lost memories, I can move forward into new growth. It's like my sleeping. Two weeks later and I'm not fighting as hard to sleep correctly. It comes more naturally.
I'm experiencing the same thing with running. I've recently begun trying a new running technique - moving from heel-toe to forefoot running. It feels better. But it takes work. It utilizes different muscles. And when I begin to get tired, I revert back to my old patterns. I have to refocus and shift my repetition.
Here's an example of how and why: check out this video.
It won't be like that forever, but for now it takes work. Eventually it will come naturally. As will the things God is growing in me. They take work now, and I have to fight harder when I'm weary, but eventually they will be a part of me like never before.
Run the race with perseverance.
It's the path to progression. The path to health. The path of deep and meaningful.