Spiritual Stretching

Revitalizing One's Spiritual Life - Spiritual Stretching

By Rev. Mike Sears

Joints stiffen, and we lose mobility. We suffer a fall, and debilitating fear sets in. Things we once took for granted are now goals on a treatment plan.

Most senior adults understand therapy. They want what they have always wanted: quality of life. Jesus called it life overflowing. Laozi, whose name pretty much means “Senior Adult,” compares suppleness and flexibility to things flowing with life while comparing the brittle and hard to things without life (Tao Te Ching, 76).

Have you ever tried to break a limb off a thriving tree? You twist, pull, and tear; but the limb flexes, bends, and barely peels. A dead tree is different. Twist, and the limb crunches. Pull, and it snaps. Therapy consists of twisting cartilage, pulling tendons, and tearing muscle fibers so that our limbs flow with life again.

Spiritual lives stiffen, too, and risk becoming brittle. It happens at any age. Loss of flexibility means something is liable to snap. Jesus compares it to a thief coming to steal, kill, and destroy. Laozi likens it to a withered branch. A hardened spiritual life means it is time for spiritual therapy: time to twist, pull, and tear those hardened perspectives.

We therapize our stiffened spiritual lives the way we do any injured joint: get it moving again.

The quality of a spiritual life is in its suppleness. Jesus says he is like a door, and he wants abundant life to flow through that moveable door. Both Jesus and Laozi take an unconventional approach. The soft and weak overcome the hard and strong. Hardening one’s positions does not strengthen spiritual life.

A strong spiritual life looks weak as it softens and becomes the door to competing perspectives. Softness allows movement. Wonder gets a spiritual life moving again. It moves us beyond where we were able to go before now with new perspectives. But the point from the Old Masters is we meet these perspectives with a supple spiritual life.

As chaplain in a retirement community, I witness senior adults doing spiritual therapy on a weekly basis. They engage perspectives beyond those hardened by our life experiences, and the aha moments break through the brittleness. Perspectives soften, and we are listening again not just to others but to ourselves. We get reacquainted with ourselves through dialogue with others. Then comes the greatest aha: we are never too old for a supple spiritual life.