I learned to slouch a long time ago in a land far away, where I was always one of the tallest girls in my grade. Where teachers were required to measure the weight of every student — in front of the entire class. Where I my mom's friends regularly exclaimed, "She is so big. She is so stout. What do you feed her?!"
Little girls do not want to be called burly.
In my daydreams, I was a tiny little thing with long hair down to my waist (I had bowl-cut hair). If I could just hide my height a little, if I could just look a little smaller, a little less stout, perhaps I could be beautiful.
I slouched through my childhood. I slouched through my tween and teens. Even after coming to America, where I was no longer considered tall or burly, I continued to slouch.
I am ready to straighten up.
But my back has been proven to be more stubborn than I expected. After nearly thirty years, my default position is to hunch. The habit has taken root. And roots go deep.
|Three young men in the fiery furnace, praying. Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome, 3rd century.|
Charles Spurgeon is right: “The first learned is generally the last forgotten.” And I learned to hunch my back very early on. I was five, maybe six?
Hans has kindly and patiently offered his assistance, reminding me to straighten up whenever I slouch — which is all the time. Sometimes, his voice takes me back to some point of my childhood and my teenage years. I can almost feel the blood rushing into my face, the insecurity of that little girl being measured and compared. I can almost sense her fear when her thinner, smaller friends asked how much she weighed. I can almost hear Ma's Indonesian dialect, "Ling, jangan bungkuk!"(Stop slouching!)
I did not see this coming. Un-hunching my back is recalling some old forgotten fears. As it turns out, my posture is not the only thing that needs correcting.
Out of the abundance of the heart the body speaks. Slouching is not merely a bad physical habit, it came from the posture of my soul. I slouched out of fear. Fear of being a burly freak with bowl-cut hair. Fear of people's judgment. So I carried the dead weight of self-consciousness and insecurity on my shoulders.
My hunched back revealed my hunched heart. No amount of confidence can straighten it, because I am not enough, and I will never be.
|The earliest representation of the crucifixion. Christ, praying. Santa Sabina, Rome, 430 A.D.|
I did not see this coming. Un-hunching my back brings me back once again to the foot of the cross. As it turns out, I can do nothing — not even straightening my back — apart from the Gospel.
I slouch because I forget.
I slouch when I forget his blood that was shed for me, his body bended upon that tree.
He is enough. God in human likeness, he took my guilt and shame. He took the burdens off my shoulders and replaced them with the robe of righteousness. He caused me to stand, and to pray.
Soul, stand rightly.
before the Lord
with hands lifted to the sky,
because Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
Praise be to God.