Stretch Reflexes Add Power
Many athletes and coaches are aware of the stretch reflexes that are built in to the body and have an understanding that the stretch reflex can be used to one’s advantage for speed and power. When quickly bending his or her legs in preparation to jump, the jumper’s patellar tendon is stretched which sends a quick impulse to the quadriceps muscles to contract. The tendon also acts like a rubber band that exerts force to return to its original position after being stretched. The effect of the stretch reflex is to generate added force and power into a person’s ability to jump. If the jumper does not immediately respond to the impulse of the reflex by immediately springing up into the air, the reflex dies and jumping power is lost.
Jumpers know that if they bend their knees and keep their knees bent a little too long before springing up into the air, they cannot jump as well. You can easily try this out for yourself by starting in a standing position, then quickly descend into a bent knee position and immediately spring up into a jump. After jumping in this manner, compare it with a second jump where a different jumping method is used. For your second jump, start with your legs already bent and hold yourself in the bent kneed position for three seconds. Without dipping down any further, spring up out of that bent knee position that you’ve been holding for three seconds and see what happens to your jumping ability. Most likely it was much more difficult to generate jumping power when starting from a bent knee position that you had to hold for three seconds. This because the stretch reflex died out before you jumped. The stretch reflex only lasts a split second. You must take advantage of the momentary impulse of power that the reflex provides while the reflex is occurring, not after it has died.
What can we learn from the stretch reflex when applying it to the spiritual world? The stretch reflex shows us that there are times when an immediate response is more powerful than a delayed response. When considering a stretch reflex, it’s important to know that it dies out and the tendon conforms to the stretched position rather than to snap back into its original length. Are there things in our spiritual life that need to be reflexive? Is there someone that we reflexively want to help or say a word of encouragement to but we wait a little too long and that reflex dies? Are there times when we reflexively know that something is wrong and need to pull back from it, but we wait a little too long and that reflex dies out making it easier to fall into temptation?
Jesus Obeyed Immediately
I believe that one of the things that made Jesus so powerful in his ministry is that he flowed with his Father and obeyed him immediately. There were times that obedience was a reflex to Jesus and he knew that immediate obedience is more powerful than delayed obedience. We may also receive moments from God where a surge of power goes though us to minister in a certain way and if we simply go with that move of the Spirit while it’s there, the moment is much more powerful than if we delay and try to act after the fact when the power has died out. I’m not talking about engaging in impulsive behavior based in the flesh or an overactive imagination. We need to experience a genuine touch of God so that we know what a genuine move of God feels like and can differentiate between the real and the imagined. It may take some time to learn this. If our hearts are right, God will be patient and we will learn.
Denying Sinful Reflexes
We can also look at reflexes from the opposite angle. There may be times when we reflexively move in the direction of a sinful desire. Being quick to engage in evil empowers that impulse and engages your body, emotions, and mouth before the mind has a chance to evaluate whether the behavior would be beneficial or not. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith….” We need to be aware when a sinful tendency is suddenly pulling us in the wrong direction and resist.
Reflexively Flowing with God
One verse that I think describes how God wants our hearts to work is in Ezekiel 36:27 when he prophecies about the New Covenant times that we live in. The verse says, “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws.” Ezekiel is telling us that the Spirit of God will move in us to do the right thing. We can learn to reflexively flow with that moving or we can resist, just like we can resist a stretch reflex, or any reflex for that matter. Resisting the Spirit of God is how we quench the Spirit. People who are waiting for God to make revival happen and believe that His Spirit must overwhelm everyone to the point where they are unable to resist the moving of the Holy Spirit, need to understand that God does not usually force people to respond. However, he does move upon people to respond to him and we must yield rather than to resist.
One of the things a great athlete is trained to do is to react quickly and decisively. This can only happen when they train themselves to reflexively respond to a situation correctly, and they correct any reflexive actions that are nonproductive for their sport. We must do the same if we are to move with God to the degree that he desires. “Lord may our spiritual reflexes work like you want them to work and give us the heart, the courage, and the discernment to flow with the impulses of the Holy Spirit rather than to resist you or reflexively respond to our own fallen desires.”