Stretching – How Far is Too Far?
Ginger Stache

I met this lovely woman in a village in Thailand. Her people, the Kayan, are refugees in Thailand fleeing persecution from their homeland of Myanmar. The women are known for their long necks and the metal rings they wear around them.

There are several theories on why these women wear the rings – a sense of tradition, cultural identification, even protection from tiger attack. Many say it is a form of beauty while others have theorized the opposite, that it is a deterrent making the women less attractive to other tribes. Whatever the reason, it sparked some thoughts in me about the ways we stretch ourselves. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Stretching is a good thing. It is how we learn and grow. Without stretching beyond our comfort zone we will likely never reach the next level of what God wants for us. Stretching is good for our body; it makes us physically stronger. Without stretching it’s safe to say that many of the world’s innovation would have never happened. In stretching we find our progress. God wants to help stretch us appropriately.

That’s the good. And, as with most any positive, without balance it becomes a negative.

The Kayan girls begin wearing the rings at a very early age. I have a photo of a three-year-old in them. At some point they face a decision. If they choose to continue, adding up to 25 rings, in time their neck will no longer be able to hold its own without them. They can face serious physical problems. This is their choice, and I hold no judgement, but it reminds me that we all have difficult choices to make.

Why do we overextend? A sense of obligation, misguided ambition, inability to say “No”? How easy it is for us to stretch too far and do real damage. We sacrifice effectiveness, time with our family, health, and peace. And what do we get in return? Money, recognition, self-importance? We must ask ourselves if the sacrifice is worth the cost and hopefully correct the course before the damage is done.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately. I haven’t done any permanent damage, yet, but I’m sure I’ve been a bit more irritable, less patient, maybe even snapped at someone a time or two. All signs that I have stretched too far. I may have gotten ugly. So, I took a moment to step back just a little, giving myself some time, taking an inventory of the choices I need to make now for the future I want. The future God has for me.

It isn’t easy to slow down; I’m a natural stretcher. But overall, I will be more effective and successful in the things I do allow to stretch me, and certainly happier and more content with my life, if I focus on balance rather than counting the rings I can squeeze in. And the people around me – those I care about so very much – will be happier as well.

There it is – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I encourage you to take an honest look. The choice is yours. How far will you stretch for healthy growth, without overextending into a place of weakness. And remember, God is right there to help you along the way!

– love, Ginger


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