Brace Yourself

Soon after our first child was born, the doctor informed us that Henry might have congenital hip dysplasia.

Aside from that, he appeared perfectly healthy. Even so, Mom and Dad left the hospital with a small limp of anxiety.

Another doctor confirmed the diagnosis a few weeks later. As a new parent I knew Henry’s first step was still many months away, but now it wobbled with a new kind of uncertainty.

Hip dysplasia indicated a weak, unformed connection between his legs and hip, which, if left untreated, could impair his steps for a lifetime.

So we had to put our baby in a harness. A Pavlik harness.

After the specialist inserted our son into the gadget, he grabbed ahold of the rear straps and, with one hand, hoisted up our fragile newborn.

It did not look right.

“See? He’s okay.” The doctor smiled.

“I do this to show parents that their baby is okay in this thing.” He confessed to using the illustration for shock value, too, in order to lighten up the mood.

“Parents hate to see their perfect newborn strapped into one of these,” he added. “It’s okay to relax and find a little humor in it because he’s going to be all right.”

All right.

And, in time, he was. But we still didn’t like laying only a portion of our baby on the changing table. The other half of Henry seemed to straddle some large, invisible horse, preventing his legs from ever touching the cloth.

Nor did we enjoy the conspicuous nature of the contraption. Now, the baby pictures began sliding by us like a show we didn’t see coming.

In the end, though, the dysplasia remained in our family only as a metaphor. We all possess this weakness within us, which, if left untreated, will turn our bones into table salt.

Henry’s old harness came to mind when I walked through last Sunday’s sermon. It was one of our pastor’s final messages in the role of lead pastor.

And he delivered it with the same fire as his first.

“You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?” (1 Corinthians 10:21-22 NASB)

The plea was simple and from the heart: We make God jealous when we try to dine at two tables — at the same time.

Next, nearing Sodom and Gomorrah, our pastor sized up Abraham and Lot. Abraham had two feet firmly planted in God’s kingdom. Lot, on the other hand, had a lusty foot.

And his wife ended up with salty legs, too, when she couldn’t keep herself from looking back.

Today, we still battle the urge to look back toward the spirit of the world. We look toward the phones in our pockets, the magazine covers in the checkout lanes, and the balances in our banking accounts.

It’s hard not to get distracted.

So my pastor is right: We need to brace ourselves because we can’t keep one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. How many of us have felt the pain in our hips as we’ve tried keeping our feet at two opposing tables? We’re so recklessly ravenous for a spread of satisfaction, pleasure, and peace that we’ll crave manna at the same time as we crave marshmallows. Anything to ward off the rumbling fear and frustration. Ultimately, though, we must make our choice: Do we feed our soul or do we feed our flesh?

The painful tension makes us long for a spiritual liberation, one which will allow us to eat, drink, and walk in freedom.

To an untrained eye, we may appear healthy and fit, but our Father knows our inner dispositions. We need a harness. And we need help. We find both in Christ.

He places our legs into position until they form their necessary attachments. This requires restrictive training and uncomfortable discipline. Without it, they’ll drift, shift, and eventually buckle under the pressure.

But we’re more than just God’s patients. We’re His precious and beloved children. And as we lay ourselves down on the table, He promises to hold our hand through the entire change.

12 thoughts on “Brace Yourself

  1. It takes faith, I think, to strap a newborn into a harness so that he’ll heal, even if it appears he’s perfectly okay. Good story – and good application.

  2. Restrictive training and uncomfortable discipline, nope, no fun at all, but buckling under the pressure of life is even scarier.

    Thanks, Matthew.

    • Nope, no fun at all. And yet — somehow — I believe we can learn to find joy in the constriction.

      Though we may catch a whiff of pleasure from the other table, we can still discover a deeper, more abiding joy at the table with Christ — as we come to understand the freedom found in His miraculous gift at the cross.

      In other words, it’s not as if we’re doomed to a joyless life — because Christ now offers us a greater joy. Any smell of store-bought cookies just doesn’t compare.

      Thanks for stopping by, Amy!

  3. This was great! But the end thought, of us laying on a changing table while, what? God changes our diapers? Sort of made me chuckle. He sure puts up with a lot of our poo.

    • Yes, to our own noses, growth and change usually smell quite messy!

      The other image, of course, which came to my mind was Abraham placing his younger sacrifice on the altar table. Either way, it’s uncomfortable.

      Thanks for stopping by today, Virginia!

  4. When I was a baby I had to wear a brace consisting of a rod attached to my shoes to keep my feet directed at an outward angle. My feet were prone to turn inward. I had to wear this even while sleeping which broke my parents hearts.. Another metaphor?! God uses circumstances and events to turn our hearts outward to others rather than focusing inward. He does whatever it takes to keep his beloved in His way,near His heart Of course, at times it hurts, but is and will be worth it all communing at His table!. Unfathomable love! Good post, Matt!

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