When I was young, I took great delight in being extremely limber. With no effort or pain, I could flop down into the splits. I could not only touch my toes with no problem, but I could bend down so far that I could place my hands palm down on the floor. In fact, I could cross my ankles and place my hands palm down several inches behind my ankles. And it didn’t hurt; it was, in fact, physically exhilarating to stretch myself out to such an extent. I could even perform these feats until I was in my early thirties, after giving birth three times. Somewhere during that decade, though, without my being aware of it, I lost my flexibility. I started having issues with what a doctor labeled, without making the slightest attempt at anything resembling scientific discovery, “tendinitis.” The first time it was my right elbow. I was told not to use my right arm very much. I had three children under the age of four, and I’m right-handed, so he might as well have told me not to breathe very much. The elbow slowly got better over a period of several months. As my thirties progressed into my forties, I got “tendinitis” in most of the joints in my body: both elbows, both wrists, both ankles, both knees, both big toes, both thumbs, my left pinkie, and the slowest to heal of all, the hip adductor muscles on both sides concurrently. At one point, I had myself tested by a neurologist, which we couldn’t afford, but I was desperate enough to do it anyway. He performed an ANA (antinuclear antibody) test, which checks for the presence of an autoimmune disorder. That test came back positive. He also tested me specifically for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which both came back negative. As a later doctor put it, I have an “unidentified autoimmune inflammatory disorder.” I already had that figured out.
At the same time that the inflamed joints began to bother me, I also began having issues in my back and neck. The first time my back “went out,” as people around here put it, I was pregnant with my third baby. I bent over to put my toddler in the car, and I felt a searing pain slice through my lower back. That experience has repeated itself over the years more times than I can number. The worst was when I was about forty-five. I bent over to pick up a sock, and when I stood up, I felt the explosion in my lower back. I missed three days of work plus a weekend, and when I went back to work, it was still too soon. People always ask me, “What did you do to mess up your back / neck?” They assume I must have been moving boulders or lifting baby elephants over my head. But usually it’s something innocuous, like picking up the sock. Sometimes, I just shift in my chair.
I have long suspected that the inflamed joints and delicate back are both symptoms of the same problem and that the solution might be dietary. What that dietary solution might be, I don’t have the expertise to ascertain. But I believe it’s possible. In the last year and a half, I’ve all but eliminated IBS and an occasional blood sugar imbalance by cutting out all sugar and drastically reducing the amount of wheat in my diet. The only solution that medical science could offer me for those ailments was a lifetime of taking drugs that would only ameliorate the symptoms while putting more chemicals in my body. I didn’t see that as much of a solution. I don’t know if the rest of humanity felt the earth shake when I made the decision to stop eating sugar, bread, and all processed food, but it was certainly a momentous day in my life. It was only possible because the Holy Spirit led me to do it, and God strengthened me to go through with it. When I have the time, I read several health blogs. Someday, I’m going to come across the solution to the inflammation and back problems.
In the meantime, I see a chiropractor. I’m under the care now of someone that I like. He approaches my care scientifically and is happy to explain to me what he’s doing and why. Before, I’ve been under the care of chiropractors that I didn’t feel were doing me much good and weren’t inclined to share the science of what they were doing, so I’m glad to have found someone with whom I feel comfortable. I came across him several months ago in a crisis. One of my dogs was apparently possessed by a devil one morning; she was running around the house in a frenzy and crashed into me hard. She hit me on the left shin and threw me off balance. As I fell, she continued to plow into me and torqued my lower body to the right. I knew I would have a big bruise on my left shin (and I did), but the more pressing problem was pain in my lower back. My most recent chiropractor had moved out of town, so I had to find someone new. I asked some colleagues at work and found my new chiropractor. It took a few weeks to get myself in to see him. By then, the pain in my back had subsided, but I went anyway. He was appalled at the state of my pelvis. “You’re not feeling any pain right now?” he asked incredulously. I told him I was a little stiff. Apparently my dog had done more damage than I suspected. My pelvis was twisted far forward on the left and backward on the right. I had gotten used to it. He adjusted my pelvis and spine and neck and gave me strict orders not to twist. I never realized how much twisting I do until I was told not to twist anymore.
That evening, when I was leaning over the sink to brush my teeth, I noticed that I felt out of balance. It felt as if I were twisting to the left and had the right side of my pelvis jutting forward. When I looked down, though, my body was straight. I had become so accustomed to being out of balance the other way that being straight felt wrong and being twisted felt right.
Ged tells us in Proverbs 14:12 that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” In Isaiah 55:8, He says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” As humans, we think we know how to live, but we don’t. All we’re capable of coming up with on our own is to be good more than we’re bad, and if there is an afterlife, then we get to go to the good place instead of the bad. We think we need to hang onto what’s ours and protect it. We think we’re justified in not forgiving someone who does something heinous, especially if it’s done to us. We think we have to pursue our own happiness and self-fulfillment, even if it destroys our family. We think that when life isn’t fair, it’s okay to feel sorry for ourselves and pout. All of these ideas are backwards. The only way we can ever enter into heaven is through the blood of Jesus, because not one of us could ever be good enough to deserve it through our own efforts. God tells us to be generous and give liberally because if we hang onto our stuff with a death grip, then He can’t bless us. We have to forgive those who wrong us because God forgave us first, and we’re not above God. If we put our own happiness before the welfare of others, we’ll never be happy because we only find fulfillment in helping others. We have to be thankful for what we do have rather than focused on what’s gone wrong, because life will always be unfair, and if we’re waiting on perfect circumstances to be happy, then we will only experience transitory happiness and always be at the mercy of an enemy that hates us.
In Romans 12:2, we’re told to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” What feels right to us is wrong, and what God tells us to do goes against every human instinct we have. The only way we can ever retrain ourselves to see things God’s way is to immerse ourselves regularly in the Bible. All educators know that humans learn by repetition. That is how we learn about God’s ways, too. We read His instructions to us again and again. If it’s something that God has us working on, we should read it every day until we get it, even if it takes years to get there. And God is perfectly fine with its taking years. He measures our success not only in the victories themselves, but also in the process of submitting to Him and working with Him to accomplish what He wants for us.
I didn’t like being told that my only recourse for relief from IBS and blood sugar imbalances was to take drugs for the rest of my life, and I was glad when God showed me another way. I resisted it for a long time, though, because I loved sweets and bread. But once I obeyed and put aside the foods He told me were hurting me, I soon began to feel better, and I lost the craving for the things He had me give up. I had thought it would be a lifetime of depriving myself and wishing I could have the things that were forbidden, but in actuality, I don’t miss them at all. I don’t like being told that I have to keep from twisting for the rest of my life, and that eventuality, my joints and bones will degrade to the point that the chiropractor can’t even make me better again. I know that God will tell me what I have to do to reverse and repair the inflammation in my joints and pain in my back and neck. There is every possibility that I won’t want to do what He tells me, but I do know that if I obey, I will get the same result as when I gave up sugar and bread. God is smarter than I am. He knows what will make me healthy and happy and fulfilled.
Not twisting is not the answer to my back pain. Not twisting is a prison. It looks like the best solution to the world, but I’m convinced there’s a deeper healing for me than that. We should scour the Bible for God’s instructions on how to live. His way is the only way that will bring about the good life He wants for us, whether it be a healthy body or a happy family or financial prosperity. I’ll keep not twisting for the time being, because right now that’s all I have. (I’ll try to not twist–I constantly forget and do things I was expressly told not to do.) I’ll also continue to retrain my mind every day by reading God’s instructions to me so that as I live out my life, I can continue to behave more and more in God’s way and less and less by the wisdom of humans.