Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flexibility and imbalance

My friend and colleague, Susan Lawrence, is writing a three part series on Disicpline in her column, Encouraging WORD for Leaders Insider magazine.  In the November issues, she discussed the importance of Flexbility. (October was Weight Training and December will be on Endurance, so be sure to subscribe. http://assets.group.com/email/cvc/assets/20111101_inspired.pdf)  
Susan’s articles always get me food for thought and with the way my brain is wired, my thoughts tend to veer off the beaten path and sometimes on little rabbit trails… like today.
I always considered myself very flexible, physically.  I prided myself in my ability to not only touch my toes, but place my palms on the ground. When warmed up, I could put my foot behind my head.  It was as if I were gifted in the flexibility department.
That’s good, right?  At least, that’s what I thought, until an insightful personal trainer set me straight.
All my adult life, I suffered with knee and hip pain.  Running for long distances was murder and simple lunges caused the tendons in my knees to lock up.  Needless to say, I learned to avoid both.  When the pain became acute, I’d end up in physical therapy told I needed to strengthen my quads and take Tylenol or Aleve. The real downer was they’d tell me women with long legs usually have these issues. (And I thought having long legs was a good thing! Boy, was I wrong!)
Back to the personal trainer…  One afternoon during a regular workout of wincing through my leg exercises, my trainer, who was always trying to find an exercise I COULD accomplish without pain, put me on a machine to isolate my hamstrings and totally avoid stressing my knees.  We immediately discovered that I had zero strength in my hamstrings. Seriously, even at the lowest weigh I was struggling to complete even a few repetitions.
While I was feeling pretty defeated, my trainer was having a revelation.  He told me that my hip pain and knee pain was probably because of an imbalance of strength in my leg muscles.  My quads were much stronger than my puny hamstrings and were pulling my legs out of balance resulting in the constant pain.
For the next six months, we concentrated on stretching my quads and strengthening my hamstrings to create muscular balance. As the back of my legs became stronger the pain in my hips and knees virtually disappeared. 
But guess what else changed.  No longer could I place my palms on the floor OR put my leg behind my head. That extraordinary flexibility I thought was my gift was really a result of that painful imbalance which was causing real physical limitations and constant pain.  Yep, I am not super flexible anymore, BUT I CAN do lunges, leg lifts and run (if I even decide I WANT to) with very little pain.  I’m growing stronger every week. I am a changed woman!
In reading Susan’s article, then thinking myself down this rabbit hole, I began to see parallels in my physical story and my ministry story. 
How many times have I been too flexible in ministry creating imbalance, pain and limitations?  I’m thinking of the time I wasted letting one individual hold an entire program back. Where I thought I was being flexible and patient, I was really prolonging the pain and limping through with an outdated ministry plan.    
Do I let my strengths in some areas blind me to weakness in another?  Does my strength as a trainer and encourager actually limit my ability to be discerning enough to see limiting weaknesses in my own leadership styles and the leadership styles of others?  I know that I sometimes accentuate the positive TOO much and thereby allow myself to ignore the problems that truly need addressing.
Hey, this little rabbit trail is actually leading somewhere….
Just think how much stronger I could be for the kingdom, if I address, and correct, the weakness and imbalance in my own ministry life?  I may end up a tad less flexible, but with God’s help and direction, the journey will be much less painful. 

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