My husband, Toby, and I recently got massages and I should have taken a cue from him as he explained to his therapist, in detail, where he was aching, what he was feeling, the pressure that he preferred. Oh, he also followed it up with “I’m here for relaxation.”
Here’s me, “I’m sore. I’m training for two open water swims in June. My back, lats, shoulders and delts are tight. I need you to work all that out AANNDDD I want to relax. Can you do a deep tissue sports massage?” Now, in my mind that translates to: Carefully work out all the knots, while helping her relax at the same time. My massage therapist didn’t get that translation.
True. Story. I’m about five minutes into this massage and I’m thinking to myself this is the best sports massage ever. She’s using her forearm to apply just the right amount of pressure. She’s being so gentle, she’s being careful, she’s HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!!! WHAT THE HECK IS SHE DOING???!!!
I promise you, there was no warning. There was no whisper in my ear of what was coming next. What I do know is that a 125-ish pound woman took her ELBOW, the strongest bone in the body, used ALL of her weight and applied pressure on the BIGGEST knot I have ever had in my right shoulder-blade area. Every. Unholy. Awful. Nasty. Curse word in the history of man flooded my mind. I stopped breathing. I know I stopped because I hear her whisper in my ear “I know this hurts, but I’m gonna need you to breathe.” Really Captain Obvious? Also? I don’t want to breathe. I am hoping that if I hold my breath long enough I’ll pass out and not feel the pain.
She finally lets up on the pressure, and has successfully moved the knot into my shoulder. Again, if I were a massage therapist, I would just massage it out GENTLY because the client also said she wanted to RELAX. Clearly my therapist didn’t think that way. This time she at least gives me a heads up, “Okay, get ready” Wait. What? Get ready for OOOOOHHHHHH MMMYYYYY GOOOOSSSSHHHH! She takes my arm, twists it behind my back, holds it in place with one hand and does the elbow thing to my shoulder! AGAIN she tells me to breathe. No thank you Wanda. I prefer to NOT be conscious during my torture.
I’m seeing stars, I’m writing goodbye letters to my family in my head. I’m pretending that I am a spy and I’m not giving any information to the enemy, no matter what they do to me. I’ve planned out my funeral, (it’s a party by the way) and I am ready to meet Jesus. And then it’s gone. And I think to myself “Yep, I am now on the other side of eternity. I am about to enter the pearly gates. Toby better make sure the make up artist gets my winged eyeliner right, and I hope he picked out the unicorn shirt and sparkly skirt to have me buried in. And my combat boots. He better have put me in my boots.”
Then I realize I’m still alive. I’m awake and the knot, the pain is gone. I’m sore, but not like I was. I’m tender to the touch, a little bruised but I can already tell that the range of motion on my right side is 100% improved.
She continues to stretch out my shoulder and then moves to the left side. And yes, the process is repeated. Except this time, when I’m planning out my funeral outfit I’m wearing my ripped jeans, Adidas sneakers, and my gold sequins shirt. Right before I enter heaven, I realize I’m still alive, and my range of motion on my left side is 100% improved. The rest of the massage time she focuses on my arms and sides, (did you know you can get knots by your ribs?) all the while using pressure and stretches to release the tense parts of my body, and ease the pain and soreness that I had been experiencing. I’m also pretty sure I planned at least four other burial outfits.
For the remainder of the time I am lying there, I’m wondering:
1) Why did I say deep tissue, sports massage?
2) Maybe that’s what the Psalmist meant when he wrote Psalms 32:5
“Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast (confession) of my failures to God.” Suddenly, the pressure was gone, my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.” (The MSG)
Oh man. Was he right. Sin, guilt, shame, un-forgiveness towards ourselves and others, bitterness, deceit… all the things that we as humans deal with create knots in our lives, and boy does it hurt when we start confessing it all to the Lord. It is PAINFUL. It can open up wounds. We realize how we are NOT perfect. Sometimes our confessions can cause pain for other people, but if we keep applying the pressure, keep working out all those “knots”, keep stretching when its uncomfortable and when we feel like it’s killing us, SUDDENLY that pressure goes away and all of that guilt and shame is dissolved.
Was I sore after that massage? Heck to the yes, but in a good way. I was able to move freely. I felt stronger the next day at the gym. I was a little bruised but it was a very small price to pay for the total range of motion and freedom that I experienced in my shoulders and back.
Am I sore after I have to confess to God, my husband, my friends, and my family that I messed up? Absolutely. Am I bruised after coming to the Lord and saying “Here it is. Everything that I am. Everything that I have done. The situations I have created”. Yes, but I am also free. I have the full range of motion back in my life. My relationships are restored; the guilt I was carrying is gone.
I know that will not be the last massage that almost sends me into eternity. I’m human. I run, I spin, I swim, I lift weights, I sometimes have poor posture, I don’t always sleep well, and my purse weighs 800 pounds. My life and lifestyle will cause knots to reappear, and I will have to get them worked out again and again. I will have to go through pressure and stretching in order for my body to function the way it was designed to function.
I know that after confessing my sins and weaknesses and getting freedom in areas, there will be other areas that I will need to work on. I’m human. I don’t respond to situations the way I should. I say ugly things. I do ugly things. I hurt those I love. I battle shame, guilt and self –sabotaging thoughts. But I know that the pressure and the stretching of confession and asking for forgiveness will give me freedom to truly live my LIFE the way God wants me to live it.