Eyes Straight Ahead
Sit up. Hands at ten and two, look straight ahead at the road. Those words most likely sound very familiar to you. When I took Driver’s Education in High School my instructor drilled these points home. I quickly realized learning how to drive didn’t match what I had always witnessed. Up until that point I had watched countless people drive all sorts of vehicles. And it’s not that the operators of these cars, trucks and vans never sat up straight, or had their hands at ten and two, it’s just that isn’t what caught my attention. As a kid, I saw people driving but I never focused on the details as to how they were driving. But what my instructor wanted me and my fellow classmates to know, was there is a correct way to drive. And while many of us casual motorists slack a bit on the details, there are drivers within other professions - not so casual - that don’t.
For instance, Formula 1 racers. You will never see them whipping through hairpin turns or even on the straights with one hand on the wheel. To do so would be catastrophic. First responders are another example of drivers who don’t have the luxury of leaning back 135 degrees or navigating roads with one hand. Their profession dictates a level of seriousness that the causal motorist never considers. In a vehicle weighing at minimum, two metric tons, being in the right posture can promote a level of awareness and reaction time that can save a driver’s life. Posture, is important.
Straight and Tall
But driving isn’t the only time posture is important. In fact many would argue posture is vital to our overall health. In our modern era filled with technological comforts we often find ourselves curled over like the letter C. Living a life filled with plush seating no matter where we go or what we do causes our bodies to create a shape reflective of how we spend our time. Excessive sitting shortens our hip flexors and creates anterior pelvic tilt. Typically some form of thoracic kyphosis will follow which mimics the anatomical alignment of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Core muscles weaken, balance is thrown off, back pain becomes a regular visitor, knees hurt, gait changes, ankles lose mobility and the body gets plagued with joint problems. Your muscles and tissues take on new forms and not good ones.
Now, this next bit is key. When you do anything to the body with extreme frequency it can take roughly the same amount of time to reverse whatever condition it is been held captive within. Once when we’ve realized we lack proper posture we usually attempt to quickly fix it. Often this means we fight back with a bit of overcorrection. If we realize we’re slouching we will defiantly sit straight up to combat the hunched, computer nerd pose. If we detect our shoulders have rolled forward on us while standing we will snap them back, poking our chest out and tilt our head up to assume a superhero stance. However, we soon realize the futility in these efforts. It’s incredibly difficult to maintain these corrections all day. We fail over and over again. We recognize the fact that we simply do not possess the muscle memory or even proper alignment to hold these positions comfortably. Failure stays hot on our heels.
Poor posture doesn’t just affect your body either, it also disrupts your life. Once your body has been rewired for improper alignment you will find yourself struggling to do many tasks. Standing up straight for periods of time can become uncomfortable. Running or even jogging, painful. Squatting with your heels on the ground, impossible. Your exercise program in general, limiting. Bending over can scorch your lower back. Ultimately you’ll find yourself with less mobility, decreased range of motion and more discomfort every day. You will experience the world not as intended, but through your limitations. Next, you’ll convince yourself it’s just old age kicking in. A mental trick to help you cope with this new and exhausting existence.
Posture, as you can now imagine is extremely important to your body. But the word posture doesn’t just relate to how we carry ourselves physically. It can also be associated with our mental and spiritual health. Poor posture within our walk with God can be disastrous to our relationship with God.
Recently, I chatted with a pastor friend of mine. Part of our discussion centered around some of the challenges he’s been seeing in the lives of those he’s shepherding. One of the reoccurring themes I notice whenever we have these chats, is the wild and misguided expectations Believers often have concerning God. I’m always surprised at how hard our hearts can be towards God, while demanding so much of Him. And when God doesn’t deliver on our expectations we are quick to dissolve the relationship. We have no problem reaching for the forbidden fruit. We want out.
Bare with me, this may hurt a bit.
As Believers - young and old - we often acquiesce to the Faith with an improper posture towards God. We admit to ourselves the world is fallen, yet expect not to be the recipients of any fallout from the fall. Pain, suffering, disease and disappointment should not come our way! We are children of God! Our lips say one thing but our hearts scream another. We talk about the power and might of God, yet we hyperfocus on the negative aspects of our lives so much that God becomes small and powerless. We talk about the beauty and creativity of God yet fail to walk with wonder and amazement with each new day God gives us. We talk about the sovereignty of God yet fail to remember God knows exactly what’s going on in our fallen world and man doesn’t run anything. Simply put, our God becomes nothing more than a wooden idol on a shelf. Helpless, unconcerned and disconnected. God only becomes God, when He meets our expectations, despite what our lips may say.
All of this is a result of exercising an improper posture towards God, day after day, year after year. The net result is our relationship with God never fully forms. We find ourselves struggling with our Faith, struggling with God, struggling with life because our posture has damaged our worldview. We don’t experience life as intended, instead we experience it through the limitations we’ve placed on God. Praying becomes difficult to the point we have to schedule a conversation with God to ensure we do it. We fail to crave the Bible like we do social media; seeking that next dopamine hit. We spend our lives chasing our own desires instead of chasing God’s. And that’s if we even have desires to chase. Often we can feel lost in life, not sure where to go or what decision to make next. We become paralyzed, our spiritual body stuck in the C position.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be stuck in this position. In order to fix it, you will need corrective exercises for your spiritual body. This means you will need to take a serious look at the areas where your lips and heart do not align. You will also need someone who excelled at this task so you can emulate their daily regimen. And the greatest example of proper posture was Jesus Christ.
“saying, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” - Luke 22:42
Jesus was well aware of the fallenness of the world and humanity within. It is precisely why He came to defeat the enemies of darkness on the cross. But Jesus didn’t have the wrong impression about God the Father despite the agony He experienced. Realize something here. The agony Jesus experienced started well before His physical torture. Jesus knew all along He was going to die a horrific death. Imagine carrying this knowledge around with you for your entire life. How long would it take you to reject God if you had to live with this knowledge? Yet, Jesus had correct posture. His lips and heart were in perfect alignment. It was akin to the most amazing symphony. All notes played masterfully. Flawless harmony. Nothing out of tune or out of sync. His expectations were rightfully placed.
Jesus - who was fully God - knew the world was in a mess. He knew that this mess entailed sinful people, disappointment, death of friends and loved ones, disease, injustice, natural disasters and ultimately sorrow. But He also knew it entailed hope. This hope was encapsulated by the beauty of creation, God’s love for His creation, the image bearing of creation, and the reuniting plus final reconciliation of His creation. I don’t want to use the word balance here because it doesn’t speak to the posture Jesus carried well enough. It wasn’t that Jesus was in perfect balance but rather, He was perfectly in tune with life’s current existence. And I believe this is how we’re called to live. When Jesus was disappointed in the people around Him, He didn’t shake His fist at God nor did He forsake humanity. When God didn’t deliver an alternative path for salvation, Jesus did not forsake God. What’s also impressive is despite being God, Jesus did not turn every situation He did not approve of into His favor. Something we all strive to do each day. Jesus understood our current reality not just with His mind but also with His heart. This enabled Him to have the right posture not just with God but also when dealing with fallen people.
Perfection over Posture
When we think back to Adam and Eve we can easily see while they had everything, their posture was horrible. They weren’t content with paradise. Let that sink in. The thing you and I long for, Adam and Eve possessed, yet they were not satisfied. They even walked with God daily. Something I yearn for, and I’m sure you as well. They had it all and gave it up. I hope you can see the essence of what I’m driving at. We can have every perfect thing but if our posture towards our Creator is wrong, life itself will become futile. It will become devoid of its true meaning, wrought with confusion, struggle, and complications. We so often think to ourselves that if God would just do (fill in the blank) things would be better. Our relationship with Him would be better. If this thought ever crosses your mind again, think back on Adam and Eve’s displeasure with paradise. It will be a healthy dose of reality.
OK, let’s wrap this up shall we? I hope you can see how important it is for us to exercise correct posture towards God. But obviously this is easier said than done. As I mentioned earlier, anything that we do with extreme frequency can take roughly the same amount of time to reverse. However, it can be done. The first step is acknowledging the deficiencies in our posture that cause us to sinfully and selfishly view God. We must admit those moments when our lips and hearts do not align. Those moments when we demand perfection from imperfection. When we act like people who demand water from a dry well. When we ignore the blessings and gifts God has poured over our lives in the past because the now isn’t up to par. When we demand to live forever knowing none of us can and that each day is a blessed miracle. Trust me, I understand this is hard work. I battle these same thoughts each day but I refuse to lose to them because I know God is faithful and His words are true. I understand the current reality I live within even if I don’t always like or approve of it. I understand that myself as well as this world is fallen. But I’m also hopeful because we have a God we can cling to. You should be as well.
It is imperative that our posture consists of humility and rightly understanding our place. God is our God, not our genie, taskmaster, servant or a loving helicopter parent. View Him with the correct posture and you will be well on your way to meeting Him instead of the wooden idol on the shelf.