I’m new to physical therapy. I’ve exercised all my life. I’ve taken aerobics classes, spin classes and yoga. In college, my PE credit was a class called, no joke, Figure Control. It was for only women. What in the world? I’ve even done grueling 5 a.m. boot camps, making myself so sore I could barely function.
But, my recent hip replacement is the first time I’ve ever needed actual physical therapy (PT). I’m just a little over a month past surgery and I’ve had six physical therapists so far. No, I’m not that hard on them. I had two in the hospital, two with home health and now two at outpatient physical therapy.
I was surprised to learn I would need at least eight weeks of twice a week physical therapy. That might not even be enough, I will be evaluated at the end of the eight weeks to see how I’m doing. I was even a little more surprised to learn that when I wasn’t doing outpatient PT, I needed to do PT at home, on my own, twice a day, seven days a week. These physical therapists are not joking about this. They seem to believe working the body and working it hard is the key to healing well.
I never really take my pastor’s hat off, so even when I’m doing physical therapy, I tend to think about spiritual things and it occurred to me this morning that most of us do not take our soul’s health as seriously as we do our body’s health.
In all my years of being a part of the church, getting both church-related, seminary Masters and Doctorate degrees and doing decades of ministry, no one has every told me that I need to work on my soul two times a day seven days a week. No one has ever supplied me with six soul therapists in a month.
Nope, instead we leave it up to the person to decide what their soul needs. We tend to wait until we feel inspired to engage in soul exercise. We tend to be haphazard and very non-intentional in our own soul care. We quit if we don’t like the Bible Study teacher or the pastor. We tend to show up unprepared for worship with our mouths open like baby birds waiting to be fed some spiritual nutrition. We even gripe out loud if we feel we weren’t “fed.” Sometimes we even wait long, long spans of time before ever cracking a Bible, settling down to pray or show up at a house of worship and then wonder why we don’t feel comfortable there.
I’m so glad I’m not determining my own physical therapy for my new hip. I need a coach, a therapist who is trained in what my hip needs right now. I’m so glad I’ve been given guidelines, a timeline and am being evaluated all along the way. I’m so glad I’m told what to do and that the repetition is part of the growth and strength. I don’t get to decide which exercises to do. I’m supposed to engage in a certain set of exercises twice a day, whether I feel inspired or not. When I want to tell myself to opt out, I’m aware that I’m just cheating myself.
I love that my current Physical Therapist gives me honest feedback. She knows it does me no good if I’m bending that leg as I lift it and she tells me. She also tells me to stop leaning on the handrail. She tells me I count too fast. (I wanted to ask her how she thinks I managed to get three degrees, get ordained when I was 25 years old and raise three children? Answer: because I can move fast.) She does not want to hear what I think. She wants me to count slower. What would it be like to have a soul coach who is that honest?
I’ve learned that physical therapy is more fun when you go to a place where others are working hard too, people of all ages. Hard work is easier when the atmosphere feels like a community of people all headed toward a similar goal. I’ve also learned that sometimes, we don’t get to have the luxury of a group and we just have to work on our own. We have to practice soul strength, again and again, day after day all by ourselves sometimes.
I’m in a season of learning and healing. I’m learning we need PT for our souls, or soul therapy (st). Are we taking our soul tending as seriously as our body tending? Are we engaging in taking responsibility for growing and strengthening our souls? Do we need a coach? Do we need a plan? Do we need to stop being so picky and consumer-like in our faith? Do we need to stop expecting to be fed, coddled and inspired by others in order to be soul strong? Are you working on your soul twice a day, seven days a week?
And my goodness, wouldn’t things change if we did? We might stop griping about the worship music or the message. We might show up more for the sake of the community. We might show up stronger and healthier and less needy. Can you imagine how churches would change if Christians were strong and disciplined and receiving honest feedback?
I‘m learning in this season that my body needs PT. Now I know my soul needs Soul Therapy (ST) as well.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and River and the proud owner of a brand new hip. To read more blogs, see upcoming events and to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle monthly email, go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.