My biggest problem in recovering from my broken elbow has never been dealing with pain from either the injury itself or the resultant surgeries. My struggle has been with extension; getting my elbow joint to open up to restore my reach. As detailed in a previous story, weeks of inactivity while the fractures healed allowed time for a sliver of bone to grow up behind the joint and prevent forward arm motion. Once the bone chip was removed, my arm was able to go straight; in fact it was once again locked in that position in the brace for the first few days after the surgery. But now the issue is not with bones and joints but rather with muscles that want to pull back into the less functional bent position.
My physical therapist is working hard to help me in this regard. When I come in at the start of the session, I can usually open my arm to about 45 degrees short of horizontal. He wraps my elbow in a heating pad for the first several minutes of our time together, and then massages the bicep muscle with cocoa butter and firm pressure while he gently but persistently straightens my arm out as far as it will go. By the time I leave he can get it within single digits of his 180-degree goal. The problem is that I can not yet reproduce his results on my own. So I have exercises to do at home and various strategies to not only loosen up those muscles but get them to stay that way.
Funny, God's church has long had a similar problem with extension. We believers are to be His hand extended to those in need, whether it be physical assistance or love, mercy and forgiveness. We know what we are supposed to do, yet too often we simply come up short in that regard. Pastors and ministry leaders coach us to the best of their ability, encouraging action on our parts, but too often we pull back into old habits and mindsets, returning to our fixed opinions and remaining locked within the walls of our places of worship. The problem is an internal one, a matter of the heart, one that can't be fixed by external pressure alone but rather by an internal turnabout, a supernatural work. Lucky for us that work was done on the Cross, and its benefits are available to us all.
The brace that encloses my arm has a big dial on either side of the elbow joint that allows me to adjust how much the arm can open or close, reminding me that to some degree at least, the amount of my extension is under my own control. While a truly generous spirit isn't something I can dial up on my own, the more I allow Christ to change me on the inside, the greater my reach will be to the outside world.
“Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers? He answered, The one who showed pity and mercy to him. And Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:36-37 AMP)