I straighten my back, and shoulder blades

take on a new meaning.

Tension stretches its hands around my neck

and claws my skin at the same time—

like twisted thorns clinging to the seams in my shirt.

I laugh sometimes

that I can’t tell if the creaking is from my bed or my back,

but while people are responding with

“Work on better posture”

or “You’re too young to feel like this,”

I’m nodding my head with the strength of my last coffee.

I either sleep too much or too little,

because it’s easy to slip between distraction and drowning

when you’re used to wearing pain like wooden poles across your back.


But it’s also easy to forget the feeling

when tightness creeps around my shoulders like a snake

and the aching weight goes unnoticed.

I forget I move as well as think,

I forget I have a body

until my shoulders stiffen with pressuring pain.

I forget that aches exist outside my mind,

and when I think of weakness,

I think isolation, I think numbness.

I don’t think of resting my arms after folding laundry.

When I think of weakness,

I think of a High Priest who is able to sympathize—

but I think exhaustion,

I think temptation.


When I think of His shoulders,

I think of my sin upon them,

but I don’t think of the wooden weight crushing His back.

I don’t think of the tightening.

I don’t think of the aching.

I neglect the humanity

that shows itself in sweating palms and breaking skin.

I forget about the shards of wood

creeping between His shoulder blades.

He knows pain

like the oldest of friends,

and I’ve felt tears ease when I know He shed them too—

but I stretch my arms and wince,

forgetting that every throb is a sense He knows well.


On a good day, my body can’t seem to choose

between tender and tight,

but I forget my Savior chose death in place of me.

On a good day, I can ignore the pain.

I can live despite it.

But I forget how blessed I am

that He didn’t ignore me,

that He gave me life despite me.

The pressure winding around my arms and tightening my shoulders

is nothing more than a shard of life on a broken earth,

and neither are meant to last.

When I stumble into His arms and catch my first breath of real air,

I imagine Him smiling and saying,

“There’s no more pain here. Isn’t it wonderful?”

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