by Joe Leavell
Truth be told, I’ve been trying to get more in shape this year. Running has never been “my thing” but I’ve done it a bit, and it seemed pretty easy to get into it. You just put tennis shoes on and start out the door, right? So, with good intentions, new insoles, a running app from my smart phone in one hand, and a bottle of water in the other, I’ve been trying to work for the past six months on becoming a runner. What I didn’t realize was that running hurts my legs. A lot! After building up to a few of miles of running, my shins began to be in severe pain and throbbing when I got home! I thought maybe the pain was normal, so I tried to fight through the ache, which just made it get worse and worse. I quickly became discouraged and backed off, thinking there was something wrong with me. Especially with the looming summer heat, I was ready to quit entirely.
Providentially, about the same time, I had the unique opportunity to cover a couple of shifts for a vacationing friend at the physical therapy office where he works. I loved seeing these skilled therapists genuinely help hurting people! However, I never anticipated being on the receiving end of the care. While one therapist told me about his ten zillion-K run (only a slight exaggeration), I related in passing to one of the therapists about my shin splints. Two minutes later, I found myself running like mad on the treadmill as the therapist recorded my running stride and looked for issues. My running technique was apparently so horrendous, it was instantly obvious to the therapist why I was struggling in my running. He observed that I was extending my legs out as far in front of me as I could (I thought it would maximize my stride), slamming the ground on my heel, and then slapping the rest of my foot with my step. From his description, I was putting up to 700 lbs of pressure on my legs with every step. Oops.
I felt dumbfounded. Well, I felt dumb, anyway. I tried to rationalize and explain away my ignorance to the therapist, but he was having none of it. He told me how I would cause permanent damage to my bone and muscles if I didn’t change my running immediately. That shut me up. Then, for the next 15 minutes, the therapist showed me how to run. Correctly. He not only taught me, he got on the treadmill himself and modeled for me what he was talking about. I was a bit overwhelmed until he got me back on the treadmill and slowly showed me the mechanics of how to be a runner.
Did it help? Let’s just say that the very next evening I ran five miles pain free, and the first two miles were done four minutes faster than I’ve ever done. Ok, Mr. Therapist. I’m on board!
What Did I Learn?
I could not believe how many correlations there were between biblical counseling and physical therapy! Here are the top seven parallels that I saw from my experience and what we at BCA are striving to achieve with every life we are honored to speak into:
- We all have blind spots and lack wisdom on knowing what to do about our hurts. What you don’t know can hurt you. Sometimes it takes someone else to point out what we cannot see.
- We need to be humble enough to admit that we need help. Even athletes at the top of their game submit themselves to coaches and therapists. Why would we not do the same for our soul?
- We can get angry at our caregivers, or we can be teachable and learn. No one likes to be told they are wrong or that they have a need, but if we are hurting ourselves or others, we need someone who loves us enough to say so.
- We need to hear from someone who can genuinely help. We don’t need someone making stuff up as they go or give surface level assistance. We need someone who can not only see the problems, but offer real, helpful solutions to the underlying problem.
- We need someone who will listen intently and purposefully observe the descriptions of the pain and the problems. It will do us no good if we have a leg injury, but we are given therapy for an arm because we weren’t listened to as we described our symptoms.
- We need someone who genuinely cares about us. There is nothing worse when you are already in pain than indifference. We need someone who will care about us as a person, not just as a puzzle to be solved.
- We need to be willing to do what we are taught. The therapist gives the training but the patient does the work. We can be coached. We can be mentored, but at the end of the day, we must do the grueling day-to-day work of implementing what we are learning. It does us no good to know the solution if we will not follow through.
So have I since arrived in my running? Nope. I’m still figuring things out. I have lots of room for growth, but at least I’m not killing my legs in the process. I’m grateful that while I was on the verge of quitting, someone cared enough to get me up on the treadmill to tell me what I was doing wrong, and teach me how to properly run.
Have I arrived in my relationship with Christ? Nope. I still need help and so do you. Even though I am a biblical counselor, I still submit to my own church elders and those who are spiritually wise. These are people who see things in me that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise see, and point me to Christ. Who do you have in your life challenging you and walking with you through your hurt? We at BCA would be honored to walk alongside you and help you as you grow.