BY MICHELLE WILLIAMS, GRACE ATTENDER & BLOGGER
If we’re talking about physical health, poor posture is a type of habitual positioning of the body usually leading to muscle strain, weakness and chronic pain that may interfere with daily life. I want to talk about a different kind of poor posture—but one that also leads to chronic issues in daily life.
Today when I hear the word “posture,” I don’t immediately wonder whether I’m sitting up straight. I most often think in terms of how I orient my heart. I believe there is proper posture—and poor posture—for the heart.
If I were to describe what I believe to be proper posture for the heart, I would say that it is purposefully orienting one’s own heart toward love. To go a step further, I’d say that proper posture is seeing the image of God in others by default. I recently learned the true underlying meaning of the Hindu salutation, Namaste, which I understand to be, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Perhaps this perfectly sums up proper posture for the heart. Not only does it acknowledge the divine image of God in others, but also in one’s self. Recognizing the divine image of God in one’s self may actually be the hardest step in achieving proper posture for the heart. But I believe that once we make that first adjustment to our posture, the rest naturally eases into place.
So if someone is struggling with poor posture for the heart, what could be the telltale signs? I think it’s absolutely possible that some people may not even know they’re suffering from this affliction—that they haven’t truly discovered the divine image of God within themselves. Actually, I know it’s possible. I’ve been there. And I remember vividly the moment I woke up from that nightmare.
In the time before I recognized the divine image of God within myself, the signs and symptoms of my poor posture manifested in several ways. The pressures of life caused me to be very self-focused, always wanting to be sure life lined up favorably—or at least fairly—for me. I liked being “right,” and felt proud when I managed to talk others around to my point of view. I believed I was good at the core, but never sure if other people believed that. I always sensed a nagging urgency to prove my worth to others—but I never wanted to admit those feelings of self-consciousness to anyone. I didn’t like to show any sort of weakness, and I would shame myself whenever I’d let my vulnerabilities tarnish that facade. I constantly struggled to manage an unstoppable drive to fish for positive feedback on Facebook. It was really stressful to put on my best face even if I was torn up emotionally inside. I did my best to be kind and polite to others, but I often resorted to a strong retaliation of defensiveness or duality toward anyone who refused to reciprocate my “good manners.” A simple or even unintentional insult could ruin my whole day or worse. Sometimes I even went as far as attempting to impose shame on others for my own vindication. In hindsight, I think I may have even been trying to keep a tally to prove my own worth to myself. What a burden. Seeing it now is easy, but I was totally lost in the weeds back then and thought I was doing life the best way possible. After all, I’d read all the books. (...except for one really important one.)
When I woke up to the realization that I was created in the image of God, it was like a light switch flipped. I began to understand that the sense of feeling good at the core was most likely the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout my life. But it’s difficult to recognize such a force as the Holy Spirit when you’re unaware that you were created in the image of God in the first place. The other half of the awakening is the understanding that the image of God is visible in everyone else, too. To know God is to know that God is in all of us. Namaste.
Becoming aware of my posture and working to improve it has brought great relief to my life. I’m more outwardly focused in the sense of desiring first to shine a light of love in others’ lives. Feeling love toward others is so much more pleasant than evaluating their worth or attempting to prove my own to them. My existing relationships have deepened, and I’ve developed many new and lasting friendships. I’ve noticed a pattern of new acquaintances remarking on how comfortable they feel around me even when they typically prefer to remain reserved. I find intense joy in striking up interactions with strangers rather than keeping my head down to avoid eye contact—which ironically is also poor physical posture! I’ve embraced my vulnerabilities as a way to foster connection and growth. I’m more eager to engage in difficult conversations rather than avoiding conflict at all cost. I’m more confident in my ability to guide my children through life. I’ve relaxed my grip on life being fair, which has strengthened my emotional agility tenfold. I’m so much less offendable now, and I sometimes almost have to laugh at the former version of myself. When I do get angry about something—which does still happen, it’s natural—I often realize that it’s actually a holy irritation about the broken places of the world. I’m more patient with people who are lost or difficult, and more contemplative about appealing to the divine within them. I feel like I’ve been found, and that I belong exactly where I am. I choose grace, and it fills my cup every time. The pains resulting from my prior poor posture have cleared up nicely.
If you’ve made it this far into my rambling, I imagine you may be in one of two places. You’ve either just woken up to the divine within yourself, or you may sense an affirmation regarding the proper posture of your own heart. Either way, the divine in me bows to the divine in you. If it’s the latter, I encourage you to continue searching out God’s lost sheep and doing what you can to appeal to the divine in them.
On the other hand, if you’ve just experienced an awakening, I encourage you to dive deeper into it. Don’t wait. I think the key for me was receiving God’s grace on a repeating loop—because confronting my own brokenness hasn’t been a jolly walk in the park by any means. Coming face-to-face with the ways in which I practiced disgrace toward myself and others has been a lot of hard work.
I’ll wrap up with some resource recommendations. The recent sermon series, You Were Made For More, is a must. Grace Church also offers counseling and prayer for those times when you urgently need someone to look you in the heart and confirm the divine image of God in you. The supportive community I found in Grace Church Real Moms has been transformative, and I’m hearing powerful things about the Rooted experience as well. I also rely on podcasts (shoutout to Between Sundays!), audiobooks and other easily portable resources to infuse my life with a steady stream of God’s grace. Although your experience likely differs from mine, I guarantee God has prepared a rabbit hole of resources just for you. And I suspect the divine spark within you is doing a little dance in celebration as you take these next life-changing steps.
If you have more suggestions or tips for people, please share them in the comments below!