Know God for who He is, not who you want Him to be
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (Job 42:5)
There’s nothing like a good deep stretch to loosen and relax an athlete’s stiff sore muscles. She might start with a light jog to warm the body. Then, go into a combination of deep static and ballistic stretches feeling her muscles slightly pull as they loosen. Flexibility is a key component to athletic performance.
Free movement of the body is essential for practice, competition, even the times in-between. When an athlete’s muscles are loose, the risk of injury is minimized. Flexible muscles can bend and move. They can handle more strain, faster movement, sudden change and higher intensity.
Flexibility extends beyond the athlete’s physical body. Players have to adjust to various coaching styles throughout the course of their career. They need flexibility when asked to make adjustments in the middle of a game, change a play, strategy, approach, even step up and play a different position or compete in a different event if necessary. Changes may be needed to accommodate an increase in speed and adrenaline or gain the upper hand on an opponent. Even if a stellar athlete has always seen herself in one role her entire life, she answers the call to step up and adjust for the benefit of the program. Versatile athletes are extremely valuable to a team.
Achieving flexibility requires stretching. Stretching is good. It prepares the athlete’s body for the hard work ahead, but it can also be a pain. Stretching requires additional time before and after the workout. It can hurt a little to extend your body beyond its resting limits. You have to be willing to yield to that pain and allow it to hurt as you release the unwanted toxic build up in your body. When the stiffness is gone and the muscles are a little limber, it feels amazing. It changes you.
Maintaining flexibility requires continuous movement especially after high-intensity workouts. You may recognize that soreness following your last round of physical activity. We feel the aftereffects well into everyday life. We feel it when we get up the next morning, while on the way to class, when you have to bend down and pick up that thing… The only way to break up the soreness is to keep moving and stretching to maintain flexibility. Aging also reminds us, once again, of the importance of keeping our bodies from becoming tight and rigid. Remaining mobile and active is key as the years progress. If an athlete doesn’t make it a point to address the stiffening buildup in her body, it becomes more and more difficult to work out, train even compete at higher levels.
As important as flexibility is, overflexiblity is a real risk and can make an athlete as susceptible to injury as not being flexible at all. Excessive flexibility (according to an article published by MIT) results in less support for the joints and can therefore cause an individual to be unstable.
Opportunities for injury are expansive in life Beyond Athletics. The faith of Believers is constantly being tested. It may come under attack by the enemy prowling around just seeking someone to devour (1 Pe 5:8). Other times they come from within – the battle between our evil desires and desires to do God’s will (Ja 1:13-14). There are alleged attacks which are outcomes of a revolving world such as natural occurrences and disasters. Our faith is certainly tested by the clashing of free wills and choices of the billions of individuals who occupy this world. Regardless, we need a faith that can withstand the tests and remain even when life refuses to go as expected.
Achieving flexibility beyond athletics means (1) being comfortable with being uncomfortable, (2) being mindful of expectations, (3) accepting the present circumstance, (4) adopting a growth mindset, and of course (5) trusting God. We understand the value of bending to the will of God as followers of Jesus Christ. A critical component of bending to God’s will is personally knowing and experiencing God for who He says He is, not who we imagine Him to be.
Consider for a moment the two profound questions Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 16:13-17:
- Who do people say I am?
- Who do you say that I am?
We all have ideas about who God is and who He should be. Some we hear from others; some we create for ourselves; some we conclude based on our personal experiences. Our perspectives of God can be positive or negative. Some we like and some we don’t. Hearsay about God can help advance His kingdom. How could any of us believe if we have not heard (Ro 10:14). We can celebrate with others when we hear about the great things God has done in their lives. Praise reports can inspire and give us hope.
- What image do you have of God based on what you’ve heard others say about Him?
The accounts of others, though helpful, are not enough. If we’re not careful, we can allow the experiences of others to shape an expectation of God that could lead us astray. Internalizing stories omits the important element of our own personal experience. We can listen to testimonies about God, but that will never compare to experiencing Him for ourselves.
- What are some things you have heard about God that have differed from your personal experience with Him?
- What are some characteristics or actions of God that you’ve heard about and would like to experience for yourself?
Our strongest images of God are those formed from our personal experiences. These perceptions could legitimately be formed by how we interpret our life experiences and our perception of world events. We have expectations about what life should look like and believe that God should make it so. We imagine what the rewards for our faithfulness should look like. We have declarations of what God should do for us. We can even allow our wants and desires to dictate whether or not God is a good God.
- Describe your image of God.
- What experiences have shaped that image of God?
God works very uniquely in each of us and our individual circumstances (think, for example, about the different ways Jesus healed a blind person). We need to embrace our own first-hand accounts of God’s hand in our lives to know Him more. We also need to evaluate our perspective of those experiences against the proper standard of measure. The question is not, “Who do we believe God is.” It’s, “Do we believe that God is who He says He is.”
Against what standard are you measuring your understanding of God. If it’s any source other than His professed and proven Word, you are slipping into the area of over-flexibility. If your flexible understanding of God bends you away from what His Word says, then you do not know God at all. You’re susceptible to being “tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ep 4:14).
If we are to build a genuine trusting relationship with God, through which we can feel safe enough to be flexible through life circumstances, we need to:
- Know God for who he truly is, not just who we want Him to be, and
- Experience Him for ourselves
We cannot hold so tight to our hopes, plans, expectations, desires, ideals or visions, that we are unable to adapt to God’s direction. Moreover, we cannot hold so tightly to our perceptions of who God is and what life as a Believer should look like, that we stray away from God when things don’t work out that way. Flexibility is essential in life Beyond Athletics. Let’s be flexible enough to know and accept God for who He truly is based on His Word – not who we always thought He was or imagine Him to be. With that security, we can make it through anything. Flexibility minimized injury.
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments below.
Want to see how this principle applies to life, school, and work Beyond Athletics? Read the blog on my website: CShanta.com/StillGoingPro