Something about a massage (and speaking up)
Early in my endeavour to run regularly, I encountered some shin pain. I booked into the physiotherapist to see what could be done to ease the pain and maintain my running momentum.
It was a friendly first-time experience. Each of the staff I encountered on the way in was genuine and professional. I waited on the couch and spun the world globe until my name was called.
‘Janet, this way’.
I jumped up and followed the physiotherapist into a room. The room contained a massage table and little else.
‘What are we here for today?’, she asked as she proceeded to write some notes.
‘I have not long been running and have some pretty bad shin pain, shin splints, I think’.
‘Ahhh, I see. And when did it start?’
‘Oh, about three weeks ago and it seems to be getting worse’.
There was no eye contact now, just much writing.
‘Okay, if you’d like to get undressed and lie face down on the bed, I’ll be back in a few minutes’.
She turned to walk out after delivering her instructions, but I managed a quick response: ‘It’s just the legs, the shins, you know, my legs?’.
‘Ok, I’ll be back in a couple of minutes’.
I sat, blankly, wondering if there would still be some sort of assessment first. Perhaps a little more of a history, or a look at my shoes. No, I had to get undressed.
Being my first time seeing a physiotherapist, I wasn’t sure I could question the investigative process, but I did start to question my knowledge of the human body. We’d learned at uni that all muscles connect, rely and respond to one another. Some pain is ‘referred pain’ and there are cases where back pain can often be related to knee problems. But shin splints just seemed so precise. Anticipating a massage of my shoulders just appeared to be stretching the possibility of referred pain a little too far. I begrudgingly followed her instructions and awaited her return.
Still jolly, yet focused, my physiotherapist returned and proceeded to massage from my ankle upwards. Maybe a massage was all I’d need, and then I’d be able to hit the pavement again. She got higher and progressed to my back. I hoped she was going to do the other leg on the way down.
Then there was a knock at the door. The lady left me and attended to the enquiry.
She turned to face me, sheepishly.
‘Oh, ha. It seems we have two Janets in the building. And, oh, I’m not a physiotherapist. I’m a masseuse. So sorry’.
She ducked out to allow me to get dressed. When the time was right, Janet the Second was ushered into the same room as I exited. She was a sweet older lady, in her eighties, and she’d come for a back massage. I think her shin splints were okay on that day.
As I limped out with one relaxed leg, I saw the physiotherapist and was given a set of exercises. With time, the pain healed.
A whole lot of internal dialogue arose on my part about why and when it’s time to speak up. Not just when it comes to a consultation with physiotherapists, and not just about shin splints, but in different contexts.
The church plant of which I am a part is nine months old. It’s a privilege to be connected with this community, in the truest sense of the word. The Big Table, South Perth (the church we were formally apart of) has supported our small group in the transition, helping us to find our feet in a new suburb, time slot and demographic.
Our church reflects the core DNA, beliefs and formalities of our ‘planting church’. This provides a base which has set us up, given us a solid foundation to build upon, and allowed freedom in how convictions are expressed. The people who make up the current face of the church (and those we’re yet to meet) have and will flavour our community with their abilities, passions and leadership.
In it all, a beautiful kind of messiness has unfolded. It’s not something I could have imagined or felt, before the time itself.
On a Saturday afternoon, the room we meet in is warm, authentic and safe. Any perceived hierarchies are flattened when it comes to people taking part. An environment has been cultivated where things that have the potential to stifle or hinder the act of ‘speaking up’ are acknowledged and validated, then rendered powerless against the backdrop of why we meet. We meet to know God and be transformed by Him. In this, the bigger picture wins because all power is restored to a rightful place as we act in obedience to Him when prompted to speak up.
In that sweet spot, benefits happen all ’round: in growth (personally and as a group), in being challenged, in being reminded, in sharing common weaknesses, and in setting goals. We’re transformed and strengthened because we’re able to act from a place of ultimate God-given security.
Giving it a crack and being obedient in speaking out has its healthy dose of awkward, but out of it comes more beauty as we’re refined as a Church body into the likeness of our Creator, the Head. I’m aware that the rest of the world doesn’t operate in this realm. It can be a scary place to speak up when the stakes are high, and the fall is hard.
I think we have to re-create this space intentionally each week. Once we’re in it, we abandon ourselves to a bigger leading, one that unites us and gives us the opportunity to respond, by speaking up.
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