Postural Work – The Reformed Journal Blog


Last summer I did quite a few trips between Kitchener and Grand Haven, a five hour drive. About two hours later I felt pain in my left hip and leg and spent the next three hours rocking in my seat trying to get comfortable.

The pain didn’t go away, so I made an appointment with a chiropractor in the fall. She did all sorts of tests and took some X-rays and made me stand against a wall to see my posture. It turned out that my spine was out of balance everywhere. I started making regular adjustments to put things back in place.

Getting an adjustment is a fairly simple matter. You lie on a table, they slide some vertebrae back into place and off you go.

The problem, of course, is that adjustments alone aren’t enough to fix things. Along with a calendar full of appointments, I was also given a sheet full of exercises to do daily, recommendations on how to relieve stress (but sadly no recipe for a weekly massage), and a curved piece of foam to take on twenty each day Place under my neck for minutes while lying on the floor to restore spinal curvature.

It won’t surprise you that I don’t do these things.

I started making them. Like all resolutions and goals, I started strong. But then twenty minutes felt like a really long time to just lay flat and think for a while and the exercises felt boring and yoga involved moving furniture and it was just a lot easier to get me on my couch dropping it and staring at my phone (which of course caused my posture problems in the first place).

I’m all for the quick fix of just lying on a table.

But real change…change that eliminates the need for quick fixes…takes work.

Last week I overheard a conversation between John Mark Comer and Andy Crouch on the rule of life podcast. They talked about a lot of things – culture changes, Sabbath, technology… much of the talk about Crouch’s new book, The Life We Are Looking For: Reclaiming Relationships in a Technological World. A few days later, this book magically showed up on my doorstep, and I was convinced that Amazon was taking its espionage to a whole new level. Turns out it was simply assigned text for a peer learning group I’m in.

In both the book and the podcast, Crouch talks about the difference between gadgets and instruments. He says instruments, whether musical, technological, or industrial, enable us to do something new in the world by “expanding our abilities, evolving our hearts, souls, minds, and powers — us further into the glorious and the difficult.” work of being involve people in the world” (p. 142).

Devices, on the other hand, allow us to make a difference in the world without having to become different ourselves. A piano only enables us to make music if we expand our own ability to play. Apple Music allows us to make music simply by pressing a button.

This is a helpful framework for looking at technology – it’s not all bad or all good, but some technologies involve us in the work of being human, and some reduce our ability to grow. And often we choose the easy option over formative practice.

What was particularly interesting about the podcast was Crouch’s extrapolation of the instrument/device paradigm to our spiritual lives. So often, he said, we treat the spiritual practices like devices, something that makes us feel close to God right from the start, without requiring time, energy, or skill. And when those things don’t do what we want them to do right away, we give up.

But the spiritual practices are instruments, says Crouch, “that can only be played by a heart-soul-mind-strength complex designed for love” (Crouch uses this summary of the shema to articulate what it means to be a full human) “who is willing to learn and develop a skill and for whom the first few times through playing are going to be very bumpy, very embarrassing, something you don’t want a lot of people to see .”*

During Lent we reflect on what it means to be fully human. What does it mean to be a person who loves the Lord our God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? We recognize again this season that we often fail in this endeavor. On my own journey I can think of many spiritual practices that I started and then gave up because they felt too cumbersome and too time consuming and I was really bad at them and they didn’t make me feel closer to God right away. I was looking for a quick and easy device, not an instrument that required investment. But it’s the investment that ultimately becomes formative that leads to a change in attitude.

So I’m grateful for the encouragement and invitation that Crouch offers, reminding us that being a human growing in relationship with God takes practice, can look awkward and foolish, and doesn’t always feel very rewarding. It’s a long obedience in the same direction. But obedience itself is a gift.

*Of the rule of life podcast talk

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