I shared with some of you that over my recent vacation I received a massage (PERFECTION!) and I spent a couple of mornings on the traction table at physical therapy. All of it to help my low back which had taken a beating following my knee injury.
I will admit to feeling a bit unnerved at the thought of being on the traction table. I was told that it was intended to gently stretch my spine and open up the spaces in between my lumbar vertebrae. But what I imagined in my mind was more like that scene from Braveheart in which Mel Gibson's character is violently broken apart, torn limb from limb.
So as my physical therapist strapped me to the table and the treatment began, I felt myself stiffen, afraid of what would happen next. But as the pulling began to happen, pain was not at all what I felt. Instead, I felt a gentle stretch–loosening the stiff and painful places in my spine, and an opening of the spaces between my lumbar vertebrae. All off it helping me breath deeply once again.
I think Advent is the traction table that our hearts, minds, and spirits are desperate for. In Advent we prepare–internally–for Christ to be born in us. Through, ritual, prayer, song, and reading, we allow ourselves to be stretched, so that the stiff and painful places within us become flexible and pliable. We allow ourselves to be pulled–gently–so that the closed off places inside of us can be opened to hope, peace, joy, and love and we can once again breathe deeply of the Divine. In this way, Advent is less about breaking apart and more about being broken open.
So, my fellow Way-followers, as we move down our Advent path, I wonder what places in you have been closed off and are now in need of opening? Where are the stiff and painful places in your heart, in your mind, or in your life that longs to be stretched and pulled by hope, peace, joy, and love? Where are the spaces within you that long to be broken open?
On the traction table of Advent with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.