Several times a week I go to a chiropractor. Although he adjusts my back and neck, he focuses equally on increasing the range of motion in my right arm. A number of years ago I sustained injury to my wrist and elbow due to a bad accident. The damages to my joints limited my arm from fully extending and from rotating to turn palm up or palm down. As time has passed, the nerves in my arm and hand have begun to cause pain and numbness. The goal of weekly therapy is to free pinched nerves, release me from discomfort, and gain mobility in my arm.
To this end, I endure pain. Each time I enter the doctor’s office for treatment, I know that the therapy will hurt. He presses his thumb (or some blunted, plastic tool) deep into my muscle and then progressively moves down my forearm to the wrist. I wince. I grimace. Occasionally, I slightly whimper. He is not deterred. He finds the next sore spot and repeats the pressing, pushing, pulling, forcing, twisting thing he does.
After several moments of bruise-generating force (okay, not actually bruising), he begins to work on my range of motion. At this point, I have to push against his resistance. Just when I can win our arm wrestling match, he shows me his true strength and I hit a new level of – you guessed it – pain. At the end of the therapy, he tells me that we have gained a degree. Really? A degree? An unobservable, unnoticeable inconspicuous degree?
Who wants to advance success by degrees? Not me! I want increments much larger and quicker than that. However, an honest look at reality testifies that life moves more frequently in small measurements than large ones. Children grow one day at a time; knowledge is gained fact by fact; skills are perfected by practice after practice.
The Bible tells the story of Abraham, a man to whom God had promised that he would be the progenitor of a nation and the recipient of a vast land. His name even meant father of a multitude, but he had no children. Apparently, full range of motion or full extension of his life was, at least in part, to raise a family. God began Abraham’s stretching therapy. Resistance was applied. How? Abraham was old and his wife was barren. He had to apply the strength of what he was destined to be against his obstacles and limitations.
He advanced toward his future just like we do – one degree at a time. He had one nephew but they parted ways. He went through famine and almost lost his wife. He finally had a son through a midwife, but God required that son be sent away. Although it appeared as though he was making no progress, he was increasing his range of motion, which was verified when he eventually gave birth to his promised son and produced the lineage that would lead to the Christ.
Whether the name is Abraham, Patti, Joe, or Jean and whether we are speaking of physical recovery or spiritual destiny, endurance and patience must be applied to resistance. Without the sometimes painful but steady advancement of one degree at a time, we could fail to achieve the full range of what God has destined us to be.