Do remember back in the day when they had those little 25¢ toy dispenser machines at the grocery store? Sometimes when my mom and I were done grocery shopping, she’d treat me to a little container of what I called “slime” from one of those machines. There was something about that slimy stuff that I loved! And even though it dried out pretty quickly, and I had to throw it away, to me it was well worth it.
The other downfall about this so-called slime was that it wouldn’t hold its shape. No matter what I did with it, it always went back to just a puddle of goo.
Now, I’ve never been a particularly artistic sort, but my husband makes a living on his artistic abilities. So of course we have a variety of art media on hand, including sculpting clay. Clay is not at all like slime. In fact, clay is different than slime in a very important way. It can be molded into shapes and will hold its form indefinitely.
You were made of clay
Here’s the thing. We weren’t made of slime. We were made of dirt. Dust. Mud. Clay! And the breath of God Himself.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
“But now, O Lord, You are our father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and we all are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8
How do you feel about being made of clay? Sort of humbling isn’t it? Without God’s breath in me, I’m nothing but a pile of dirt. Wow.
But on another level, being made of clay, means we are moldable, conformable. We were not made from a glob of gel that does not hold a form.
However, while clay will hold a shape, its form can also be changed by its surroundings. And so can we.
What molds you?
Think about that in terms of how you use your body. First, consider the total number of hours in the day. Now think about what you do for those 24 hours. Divide those hours up into broad categories like sleeping, moving, and sitting or being still. Make a list of all the things you do that fit into those categories and estimate how much time you spend doing each thing. (If you have kids, this is a great math/physiology lesson too!)
“Moving” can include things like walking to the mailbox, exercising, gardening, weed eating, walking around your house or yard, etc. Sitting or being still includes time spent at the computer, eating, working in an office, or lounging on the couch. Technically that would also include sleeping, but since sleeping is a vital “activity” it has its own category.
What proportion of your day is spent moving versus being still? Not including sleeping, our time spent in physical activity (aka movement time) should be equal to the amount of time spent being still or in mental activity.
Now, if we are made of clay (which is moldable), and we spend the majority of our time in one position, doesn’t it make sense that we will become whatever shape we are in most of the time?
So if I spend 8 hours of my day sitting or even standing in one position at a desk, I will be, well, desk-shaped. As in, the shape of a person sitting at a desk.
If that’s the case, then I will have chronically bent knees and hips (tight hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors), a caved in chest, a lower right shoulder (because I’m right-handed so mouse or write with that side), a forward head with chin sticking out, a tucked pelvis, a rounded upper back and flat lower back.
Ever seen anyone who looks like that? It’s the most common posture around. So common, in fact, that in physical therapy, we have an official abbreviation for it: FHRS. Forward head, rounded shoulders.
Contrast that posture with what God made us to look like. Upright, symmetrical, well-balanced.
On the other hand, because we are moldable, we can be transformed into God’s image. Even if we have fallen away from the shape He created us to be. Our bodies are highly adaptable and wired for healing. We were created to be in God’s image. Anytime we are not operating in God’s image, our bodies work hard to get back to it. Amazing!
Also amazing is that God has given us remedies to help us get back to His image even faster, so that we don’t have to suffer.
For example, if our hamstring muscles are too tight or short, it means the muscle fibers (myofibrils) have slid closer together and are all scrunched up. It may even look like it’s bulging. Not ideal for function or health.
But, science has shown that indeed we can be transformed from short, painful, imbalanced muscles to ones that are supple, well-balanced, and have good circulation once more through something as simple as exercise.
You can’t spend all day stretching your muscles … Or can you?
Of course, the type of exercise you do will affect the speed of healing. Just walking improves blood flow to muscles so can help them relax. But to really target a short hamstring, you either have to A) Stretch the hamstring muscle itself or B) Move in good postural alignment that keeps the hamstring muscle in its proper length all day long (or at least the majority of the time).
The best thing to do is both!
Look at what you wrote down comparing the proportion of time you spend moving versus not moving during a day. Now, within the “moving” category, write down how much of that time is spend in actual exercise, like stretching.
For a patient who comes to me with tight hamstring muscles, for example, I’d recommend doing 3 hamstring stretches for 30-60 seconds, 3 times per day. That comes to between 4.5 and 9 minutes per day (per hamstring). Not a big chunk of time!
But – and this is an important but – if those few minutes of stretching can “remind” the muscle of the position it is supposed to be in and allow a bit of relaxation, circulation, and healing to occur, it will be that much easier for the muscle to mold into an optimal position with all its other activities.
On the other hand, if you stretch your muscles for 9 minutes per day and sit the rest of the day, will the muscles stay in the position they were in while doing a stretch? Not at all. That’s only 0.625% of the day, or 0.9375% of awake time. Those muscles will be shaped by the position they are in the most.
The position they are in the other 99.0625% of the time.
Which is why we are warned to be in the world but not of it. Because we conform to what is around us. We become like what we are around and do the most.
Give it a try
Get some slime (Mars Mud is similar) and some sculpting clay (or something like playdoh). Try to mold the slime into a shape. Likewise with the clay. Compare and contrast what you find.
Aren’t you glad you were made of clay and not slime? Praise God for using just the perfect material to form us in His image!
“And do 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.” Romans 12:2