About five years ago Tirouhe and I decided to get our boys a couple of bunnies for Easter. While in the pet store I asked the salesman for two same-sex bunnies (knowing their reputation). I was assured that we were purchasing two male bunnies. We gave the bunnies to the boys and together we built a nice rabbit hutch. One year and fifteen bunnies later, we realized that salesman had been in error. After giving away seven bunnies, we still had eight left, and built an additional rabbit hutch.
Life with kids and pets can be very unpredictable. Occasionally, one of the kids would feed the bunnies and forget to latch the hutch door, and in the morning we would discover that a couple rabbits had escaped. They would seldom get far. The older ones didn’t run because they were too overweight. The younger ones didn’t run because when they left the hutch they were in the yard, which meant to them that they had fallen into the middle of a buffet. They hopped happily around the lawn eating dandelions and nibbling the oregano growing at the edge of our vegetable garden.
It was generally easy to scoop up the older ones. The younger ones were quicker and a bit more problematic to catch. On several occasions I found myself running around the yard trying to corral multiple 6 month old rabbits. In an effort to quickly catch all of them, rather than running them back to the cage one by one, I would put them in our 'fort' in the backyard. The fort has a five foot deck that can only be accessed by a ladder. To get down, one takes the slide, a concept with which the bunnies seemed unfamiliar. I successfully used this technique of storing the rabbits temporarily on the fort’s deck several times.
One morning in the fall of 2007, after the kids had gone to school, and on a morning when Tirouhe had an early appointment and was rushing to leave the house, she noticed two of our younger bunnies were hopping around the yard. I dutifully went out to match wits with the rabbits. I caught one after about a five minute positional chess game, and placed it in the fort to go catch the other. As I neared the fugitive bunny, I looked back at the fort to see, much to my surprise, the first bunny sliding down the slide, with a look on his furry face hard to describe. I’m not sure if the bunny or I were more surprised by his daring escape, but before I could discuss the issue with him, I quickly ran over to snatch him. I was hoping to grab hold of him just as he fell off the end of the slide. When I quickly bent down to snag him up, suddenly I felt an incredibly sharp pain in my back. In pain, I hobbled around and managed to get the rabbits in the hutch.
Isn’t it amazing how life changes in an instant? Chasing bunnies one second, flat on my back the next. I’d had back pain before, but nothing like this. I was on my back for days with ice, anti-inflammatories, pain killers, etc. I soon received a crash course in discs and nerves and back muscles. I learned there are two main kinds of disc herniations. In the regular kind, the disc between the vertebrae bulges out and touches the nerves that run parallel to the spine. The second kind of herniation is a ruptured disc. In the case of a rupture, not only does the disc bulge out from the vertebrae, the wall of the disc actually tears, and the ‘cushiony fluid’ in the disc comes out. After an MRI, I was told I had the latter kind, called an extruded disc.
I was given a script for physical therapy and went dutifully for two painful months. During that time I learned the back exercises I had been doing for years to strengthen my back were the worst exercises I could have been doing for my condition. My physical therapist, Jerry Davis, taught me a series of the proper exercises to help strengthen the muscles in my back to hold the compromised disc centered in between my vertebrae. Jerry said if I did these exercises regularly I would probably never need surgery, but I had to do them daily for the rest of my life.
Since the exercises did eventually make the pain go away I continued doing them faithfully, almost never missing a day for two years. After two pain free years (the longest I had ever gone in my adult life without back pain) I foolishly decided I didn’t need to do the exercises daily anymore. Even though they took only five minutes a day, I thought, “I am fine, I don’t need this anymore, it’s a bother.” Rather than stopping cold turkey, I decided to cut back to three times a week, which quickly became two times a week, which within two months became ‘not at all.’
I had stopped the exercises because I felt fine; but every day I didn’t do the exercises, unbeknownst to me, my back was going out: day, by day, by day, by day. Weakening and weakening.
Then, at the beginning of this summer, a month after stopping my back exercises, I was working in the yard when (you guessed it) BAM! It went out again. It took about five weeks to recover this time. I went back to doing my exercises and I am doing them regularly. I learned this lesson the hard way.
So many of us have physical needs that require us to do certain exercises with regularity, or to take daily medication. It takes discipline, but we do what we need to do to stay healthy. We also have spiritual needs that require daily attention. This is why God teaches us to lead spiritually disciplined lives. A few of the things God teaches us through his holy church are:
Train yourself to be Godly (1 Tim 4:7 )
Attend church regularly on the Sabbath (Luke 4:31 )
Receive communion. (Luke 22:19 )
Make prayer an ongoing part of your day (Luke 18:1 and 1 Thess 5:17)
Confess your sins to each other (James 5:16 )
Share your faith in Christ with others (Mt 10:32)
Treat your body as God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16 )
Fast (Mk 9:29 and 1 Cor. 11:1 )
Do works of Charity (Lk 18:22)
Rejoice in the Lord Always ( Phillipians 4:4)
Support the church (1 Tim 5:17 )
Learn and adhere to the teachings of Holy Scripture (2 Thess 2:15)
Love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-39 )
God knows we need spiritual discipline because we are all adversely affected by sin daily. We are a sinful people in the midst of a sinful world . Our spiritual healing, and ongoing spiritual well-being requires daily attention.
Some people do not follow God’s call to daily discipline. They don’t really see the need. As far as they will admit to themselves, they feel fine. But God knows that we can only have the fullest lives when we live in daily communion with Him. He knows what we need to be spiritually healthy and fulfilled. If we discipline ourselves to do His will daily, He will strengthen us, grant us spiritual health, and build us into mighty people of the Spirit. He will make us into beings filled with His love and light, that touch souls and powerfully effect the future; but if we neglect His word, or diminish our spiritual discipline, we face an unhealthy, unfulfilled, and painful future. For to neglect God’s teaching means we fall away from Him day, by day, by day; weakening and weakening, until one day, when we least expect it…