My back hurts this morning. This is not a new thing for me.
I also don’t think this is an uncommon thing. I basically didn’t practice any form of stretching until I was 35 years old, and consequently, I have periodic pain in my lower back. And it you have it too, you know it hurts. And it hurts when you do almost anything.
So what do you do with that pain in your lower back? Well, a physical therapist once told me that I don’t actually have a lower back issue; I have a hamstring issue. So one of the things I do when my back hurts is not just stretch and put heat on the lower back, I also stretch my hamstrings. And I also have gotten into a regular rhythm of stretching when I feel well and not just when I’m in pain. Those are a couple of things you do with that pain your back.
But there’s something else you do as well. And this is not so much stretching of the body as stretching of the heart and soul.
See, when my back hurts my pride also hurts. Pain like this reminds me that my body isn’t what it once was. Not that I’ve ever been on the cover of any magazines, but I am feeling a bit more rickety these days. My body, like everyone else’s isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse. It’s in a state of decay, and the pain in my back which comes back over and over again is a reminder of that decay.
That’s another kind of pain, and it requires another kind of stretching. But Paul tells us how. According to him, in 2 Corinthians 5, our bodies are like tents.
For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life (2 Cor. 5:1-4).
See, when your lower back starts hurting, there are a couple of ways you might respond. We can mourn the loss of our youth which is rapidly fading away (or potentially already out the door). Such mourning might indeed push us into efforts to regain that youth which might result any number of things. Extra marital affairs, eating disorders, obsessive exercise – these all might come from such a spirit.
Or we can stretch the soul. We can stretch our hearts. We can take that pain in our bodies as an opportunity to embrace what the Spirit seems to be saying. He seems to be telling us to rejoice in those pains, not because we like pain, but because it’s a tangible reminder that what we have on this earth is temporary. It’s passing away. But something better is coming.
What do we do with that pain the lower back? Paul has already told us in the previous chapter:
We should take it as an opportunity – a reminder – to “not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).