I’ve never been very good at flicking rubber bands. They usually end up shooting in a direction I didn’t intended. Sometimes they actually hit me instead of the intended target. They’re unpredictable in my opinion.
I’ve also had them break, usually when I’ve tried to stretched around way too many papers. I’ve stretched them beyond their limits. I’ve stretched them too thin. It’s also possible to not stretch them enough. If rubber bands sit unused long enough, they’ll get dry and brittle so that they easily break with the slightest stretch.
Our muscles are the same. Stretching is great exercise, but if we force stretching beyond out limits, especially as we try to suddenly bounce into a stretch for maximum results, we’ll stress our muscles beyond capacity and snap or strain something. The result is rarely the same as with a rubber band, since rubber bands can’t be put back together (unless they’re tied, which drastically reduces their capacity), but muscles can heal if taken care of well. Of course, the better option is to not overstretch in the first place.
On the other hand, if we don’t stretch our muscles, we’ll not only become inflexible but also become weak and brittle. I’ve visited several people in the hospital who are unable to move on their own for a while. However, it’s still important for their muscles to get moved and stretched to avoid atrophy. One doctor insisted the family purchase a brand new pair of shoes for the patient to wear in his hospital bed. To use a well-worn pair would have supported any bad habits the muscles had developed since none of us hold our muscles in perfect positions. A new pair of shoes would be more likely to firmly hold the feet upward, so the muscles the patient would need later as he healed wouldn’t be shortened from the “flopping feet” effect that happens when we lie down.
If muscles aren’t worked, whether in a hospital bed or through our daily routines, we’ll atrophy. Our muscles will become weak and brittle. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of using muscles you hadn’t used for a while and quickly discovering fatigue or soreness the following morning when you tried to do the simplest of tasks.
Our spiritual muscles respond in the same way. If we don’t use them on a regular basis, they’ll atrophy so that it’s difficult for us to use them effectively. Just like our physical muscles, we’ll get sore as soon as we try to move in ways we’re not accustomed to regularly moving. Just like rubber bands, we risk developing a brittleness that easily cracks and frustrates us when we try to stretch again. If you’re not in the routine of participating in regular worship services, it might be rough to get out of bed the first few times. You might think about all the things you could be doing instead of spending several hours in a church. If you haven’t served others for a while, you could question what’s in it for you as you try to reach out to others. You’ll more easily get your feelings hurt or respond to unrealistic expectations of response or results. If you haven’t been in a small group study for a while, you might feel insecure. You might think everyone has the answers but you, or you might get frustrated with the pace or content of the discussion.
We can also stretch our spiritual muscles beyond what is reasonable and healthy. God absolutely wants us to grow, but his timing is perfect. It might be more comfortable for us not to stretch, but if God says it’s time for us to stretch, we need to respond in obedience. It might seem more appealing for us to try to quickly “catch up” in our lack of discipline by overstretching despite our screaming muscles we know we won’t be able to use the next day because of the unreasonable stretching, but if God says we need to pace ourselves, we need to respond in obedience. The pace won’t always be the same. The routine won’t always be the same. That’s a given in our relationship with God. He doesn’t change and his ways don’t change, but he wants us to seek, listen and respond. He keeps us on our toes and blesses our obedience. Be flexible in your relationship with him.
Jesus said to all of them, “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing to give up their lives daily to follow me.” (Luke 9:23)