I have terrible pain in my neck. On the right side, just under the skull. I can point right to it. It’s always in the same place. It can make normal activities like sleeping and driving almost torturous at times.
I waited a long time to go to the doctor because I was convinced I had a brain tumor. That’s the normal self-diagnosis, isn’t it? When the official medical opinion came that bad posture was the cause of my troubles, I was grateful, but slightly indignant at the thought that my wounds were somehow self-inflicted.
Who knew bad posture could cause so much pain and damage?
Your mother, that’s who.
Surely mine was not the only mother constantly nudging her children to sit up straight. Head up, shoulders back. And that was in the days before we were hunched over cell phones and computer screens for hours on end.
Did you know there’s a condition called “text neck”? I wish I was kidding. My physical therapist says it will ensure him steady work for the rest of his career.
I used to think my mom was just concerned about the appearance of bad posture. She was tall and graceful and drew your attention when she entered a room. She believed that how you carried yourself was important; that it communicated something to others about the kind of person that you were.
Maybe she also knew more about the physical consequences of bad posture than I could appreciate at the time. Chronic pain, headaches, stiffness, fatigue, joint injuries, muscle atrophy.
You’re sitting up a little straighter right now, aren’t you?
But what about our spiritual posture? Does it get out of alignment as well?
Perhaps if we were to look in the mirror of our conversations and actions we would catch a glimpse of hunched over shoulders of resentment or indifference or bitterness. Or maybe it’s the swayed back of a judgmental spirit or hurtful words or prideful certainty that we would see. If we are constantly stewing or muttering or blaming or wringing our hands then there’s a good chance that our spiritual posture is out of alignment.
If God were a chiropractor he’d say we need an adjustment. Maybe God’s already whispering, “Sit up straight.” Sit up straight because how we carry ourselves matters. It doesn’t just communicate to others about the kind of person that we are. It is a reflection of who God is. And as followers of Jesus those two things have to be in alignment.
We don’t think about posture. It’s an unconscious action that must become conscious. Like physical posture, the danger of bad spiritual posture is that it starts to feel normal. The words, the attitude, the division become acceptable somehow … until our bad posture starts causing damage and we are in pain. Pain that we want to blame on some external circumstance or person or suspected brain tumor, but these wounds are self-inflicted.
Jesus knew troubled times. He faced persecution, peril and sword. He was misunderstood, misrepresented and mistreated. But he was never out of alignment with the Father. He always carried himself with good posture.
My treatment plan in physical therapy is to strengthen the stabilizing muscles that enable good posture. While some folks need to work on their abs to support their lower back, I need to build up the trapezius muscle in my back to better support my shoulders and the muscles in my neck to support my head. It takes intentionality and commitment.
The spiritual stabilizing muscles that we each need to strengthen and train may be different depending on where we are out of alignment. Humility, self-control, faith, patience, hope, love, forgiveness. None of these things grows quickly in us or without intention. But the world desperately needs them. Today. They are what drew the attention to Jesus when he walked into a room. They are the muscles of a posture of grace.