I woke up sore this morning. There’s a cramp in my neck, tight muscles in my back, and my hip joints are sore. All from a little exertion yesterday at the park with my dogs. Downing two aspirin with my coffee, I think, I’m too young for this stuff to be happening.
As I’m walking around, twisting my body, leaning over, trying to stretch the knots loose, it becomes all too obvious that a life sitting in front of a computer is taking its toll. And I’m not being diligent enough on my treadmill and other workout equipment. I’m tight, rigid, locked up. This is what happens when we stay fixed in one position too long, when we don’t stretch our muscles and continually challenge our bodies.
For some reason I started thinking about some grumpy old people I know — maybe I’m feeling like that stage of life is approaching faster than I anticipated. These geezers are uptight, irritable about almost everything, complainers, and critical of others. They’re a very unhappy lot, and few people can stand being around them very long. They’ve isolated themselves, and don’t much like being around others either. They don’t like anything new, they don’t want anything changed, everything has to be exactly how they’re used to it or they become frustrated and cranky. Without continued outside interaction, without constant exposure to new and different people and things, we become fixed, inflexible — knotted up and sore.
Someone once told me that as we become older, we become caricatures of ourselves. We become more deeply entrenched in our set ways and established in our idiosyncrasies. And I think now that’s because as we get older we start limiting our outside interaction, we become more isolated. We resist change. And left to ourselves, we become a more concentrated version of who we are. And usually, not for the better.
The less exposure to change, the more fixed and immobile we become. The fewer contacts we have with people different from us or things different than we’re used to, the more intolerant we become. Perhaps that’s why people in large metropolitan areas tend to be more tolerant, more “liberal”, less threatened by people and things of different cultures. The constant barage of “other-ness” keeps them flexible. And they tend to enjoy those differences more. They tend to love the variety of life.
I’m not sure there’s a biblical lesson here, but I recognize a spiritual truth: the more we shut ourselves off from things outside our familiar circle, the more intolerant and rigid we become. The less likely we are to embrace others, and the harder it is to love people who are not exactly the same as we are. Our relational/love muscles get cramped. We become a dried up creek instead of streams of living water.
God knew it was not a good thing for man to be alone. Who knows what Adam would have become had he been left alone in the garden?
Rubbing my aching muscles, I’m looking down the road of time to my senior years ahead, and the soreness is a reminder of the options available to me. Cranky, isolated old man, or loving, tolerant old guy involved in the richness of life. God has so much planned for us, for every day of our lives until we pass into the next. So many good things placed ahead for us to do. Our decisions and activities now will largely determine that outcome. Are we immobile, too set in one position, or are we moving, stretching, challenging ourselves. One will keep us limber, useful and alive. The other, cramped, useless and sore — and that’s something a little aspirin won’t cure.