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You know what I’m talking about.  You roll out of bed in the morning, stand up and take that long stretch to get blood flowing through your body once more.  It feels good and refreshing.  The blood pumping through your muscles makes you feel alive again.  Sometimes, however, the stretch isn’t completely pleasant.  I’m getting old and stretching for me means that some joints and ailments scream a little bit.  I might feel a shooting pain through my shoulder or in my back near my rib cage.  For a moment it hurts but when the stretch is over and blood is flowing again, here comes that good feeling.

The good thing about stretching is that you can do it quickly.  You can spend time stretching also, if you want or need to work certain areas of the body a little more.  It can take 30 seconds or 30 minutes.  Either way, it’s not long.

Faith is a stretching exercise.  Faith pulls on some things that need to be worked on.  Faith targets some areas that need more work.  Faith, when realized, also leaves a refreshed feeling.  Just like the blood pumping through the muscles of my body after physically stretching, faith sends blood pumping through my heart for God.  Faith is good.  Faith is fulfilling.  Faith can take 30 seconds or 30 minutes.  Or years and years.

That’s where faith gets hard.  Imagine doing the same stretching exercises for 6 months without stopping.  That’s a lot of stretching.  Consider that same faith through the darkest, hardest storm you can imagine.  It’s not easy.  Maybe it’s a shooting pain for some or a long dull throbbing ache for others.  Imagine doing those stretching exercises for 5 years non-stop.  10 years.  How long do you accept the pain that might come with the exercise before giving up on stretching?  On faith?

Job.  Jonah.  Abraham.  Moses.  David.  The apostles.  People of faith.  Heroes to many of us who read the Bible and believe in the power of God.  People of faith…who questioned God; who tried to hide; who sin against God; who made excuses and asked the same questions over and over.

I look at those names and a host of others and think “I could never be a person of faith like them.”  Or could I?  You see, I question God.  I try to hide.  I sin repeatedly.  I make excuses and ask the same questions over and over and I try to negotiate and bargain.  And, just maybe, I am more like them than I allow myself to imagine sometimes.

Faith can be painful.  Like me stretching, it comes with some pain.  Sometimes that pain is intense and drops me to my knees just like a rib in my back pushing on a nerve does.  Sometimes it sends shooting pains through me just like my shoulder that was overworked from too much pitching.  Sometimes it is a constant, throbbing ache just like the arthritis in my back and the pain in my knees and hip.  It hurts and while I exercise faith, hoping for that same sensation I get at the end of a stretch, it seems to take much longer than 30 seconds or 30 minutes to realize it.  I, like so many others, am going on years of a constant stretch waiting for the good feeling, waiting to see God work, waiting to see the rewards of my faith and to rest easier with the blood pumping and the body and mind feeling refreshed, feeling good, feeling confident, aware of God’s work in my life.

I know I am already experiencing benefits of my faith.  Great kids that I cannot believe are mine.  A good woman who is an encourager, a caregiver, a balance and a friend.  Some incredible friends who love me in spite of my failings, insecurities and times of insanity.  They all prove the stretching is worthwhile but there is still some stretching to go.  I know because I still feel some of the pain.  So, I keep stretching until I know it is time to feel the reward, to feel the renewal and refreshing of a good, long stretch.

This from the storms in Arkansas…

Casting Crowns

Grace and peace.