By Beruchya Dao-Bai, FC 19 Syracuse
I had just finished a busy day of work at 4:30PM and went to the gym. As usual, I took 15 minutes to walk to the gym and change into my gym clothes, spent 30 minutes on the elliptical, followed by a few weight training exercises. By 5:29 PM I was done and had exactly seven minutes to grab my gym bag and run to the bus stop that is near my favorite coffee place, “Cafe Kubal.” As always, I debated whether I had to stretch or not, and ended up racing to the bus stop. As I rode the bus which is a significant part of my daily pilgrimage to my service site, a thought came to me, as I briefly evaluated my workout that day. “Stretching hurts before it feels good.” Yes, stretching produces stress on your muscles until your muscles embrace the comfort of a pose that was once uncomfortable to yield benefits such as good posture, flexibility, injury prevention and stress relief. Indeed, I realized that this was what this experience was about, stretching mind, heart, and strength.
During FrancisCorps, I realized that the struggles I had deemed unnecessary and frustrating during my undergraduate experience, had prepared and enabled me to tackle discomforting situations in my sometimes turbulent work site. At work, I was bombarded with information that I had to process quickly and accurately to address issues that impacted the future, stability, and health of individuals and families vulnerable to homelessness. Additionally, I dealt with individuals whose moods, and behaviors challenged the Christian in me. As a novice at work, the information overload was such that the restroom became the sweet escape where I rested my mind. At home and at work, I was called to stretch my forgiveness muscles to forgive every day, multiple times a day, neighbor, client and self. As for plans, I am still learning that God wants me to be more flexible with his ways and to let him deal with the details of the life that he gave me. It is no longer about “my” plans for my life, but about the good plans He has for the life that he gave to me. I learned to do more of “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5), for He adds, “ I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)”
Although God knows I love planning my life down to the minute, much like my daily schedule; He showed me that my program was inefficient until I thoroughly embraced stretching exercises. These are the times when plans changed or failed, uncertainty reigned, people hurt me, and I had to sit with the sentiments my experiences evoked. Through those times, He taught me to be more “still” and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), to learn from how He spoke through events and people, to accept situations for what they were, and draw strength from Him in order to move forward invigorated. In struggling with God and allowing Him to stretch me, I felt inevitable tension and discomfort before feeling the effects of a “good ol’ stretch.” Indeed, He taught me that life is not just about running incessantly like I used to, or lifting heavier and heavier weights, but also about sitting in an uncomfortable pose to stretch the muscles that allow you to run farther and lift heavier loads.