Wafting aromas of home-cooked goodness helped to create a warm coziness in our home this past holiday week. The meals filled us to plumb happy as we gathered together around the table, and we now need to exercise this home-cooked goodness off our bodies!
Can I talk about the importance of stretching?
The after-workout bulge of muscles can make a person appear extra buff; but what is really happening is the pumped up muscles are still shortened in contraction and full of lactic acid and other by-products. Overloaded muscles are shortened by the exhausting reps which only use a partial range of motion. The build-up of lactic acid causes the familiar muscle soreness. The muscle might loose some of its bulge, but stretching out the muscles helps them to become looser and to “remember” their original range of movement. It also helps get rid of the lactic acid and other waste-products. Although not “pumped up” as much from the tightness of the contraction, the muscle needs the loosening to return to its originial full range of motion.
But, there is a muscle that needs stretching far more than any other muscle…to the limits…as far as you can reach…and it needs to be done constantly.
Heart – s t r e t c h i n g
Did you know that Peter, a rugged fisherman in the Bible, actually talks about stretching out? Perhaps, being a fisherman made him keenly familiar with sore muscles? Fishing in ancient mediterranean times was hard, complicated work that required substantial and intensive manual labor. Fishermen developed thick muscles and a strong physique through the strenuous activity involved in their trade. Imagine the wind blowing through Jesus’s hair as he walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee watching two burly brothers with muscles bulging as they cast their heavy fishing nets into the waters (Mark 1:16-20). It was demanding work that required endurance.
Peter, a fisherman by trade, called to be a disciple of Jesus, was then appointed an apostle of Jesus Christ to the church. Having done very physical labor, he writes
using “muscle building” language, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit[ in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” The word “fervent” is the Greek word ἐκτενής (ektenḗs) and can be used relating to the body; it means without ceasing, fervent, stretched out. Peter wants the church to “stretch out” their love muscles to their absolute limit, reaching as far as possible. He also wants them to “remember” what is the most important thing, “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.‘” Love is to be “stretched out” in a full range of motion getting rid of the build-up of self-aggrandizement. Love must be stretched to its limit to cover many sins -not mere mistakes- but wrongs inflicted, not just once- but over and over- for there will be hordes of things to cover. “Stretch out” in order to hide the knowledge of wrongs against you. Reaching out our genuine love muscles helps them remember what they were intended to be: kinder, gentler, more humble, less self-seeking and to love authentically from a pure heart. Jesus gave us instruction to love others as we have been loved by him. That’s a whole lot of stretching! But, this stretching does not hinder growth; instead, it enhances flexibility and intensifies strength building. So, it is with our faith, hope and love “muscles”; but the greatest of these is love.
“Love knows no limit to its endurance,
no end to its trust, no fading of its hope;
it can outlast anything.
It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”