I remember in kindergarten singing and stretching to the rollicking song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." What a lark it was to sense my body's amazing flexibility. At that early age there were innumerable skinned knees but nothing to stop my play. While others dreaded going to the doctor's office for a physical exam, I always thought it was fun when he tapped each knee with a rubber hammer and they dutifully responded with leg jerks. Now, as a much older patient, it takes longer to achieve what is called the patellar reflex.
The knees are the largest joints in the body and they work very hard to help us move, dance, run, and stand at ease. I have heard them referred to as extraordinary lifters who haul our weight around and are especially valuable when called upon to help us get up a steep flight of stairs.
For those with osteoarthritis, the pain during these ascents can be severe.
Growing up as a Lutheran, I learned how to pray in church on the kneelers in each pew. The habit of kneeling in prayer fit well with my reverence for God and my gratitude for the Divine grace that accepted me as I was. Later in my study of the world's religions, I was pleased to see that Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism all have devotional practices of kneeling. For Muslims, the five-times-a-day prayer requires that the forehead, palms, and knees touch the prayer rug. Jews have the Aleinu prayer with the words "We bend our knees, prostrate and acknowledge our thanks." And the Tibetan Buddhists have a body prostration practice in which they drop to their knees and then stretch out their entire body on the floor.
Bending our knees during worship and other devotional acts gives us a chance to practice humility, which the early Christian John Chrysostom called "the root, mother, nurse, foundation and bond of all virtue." So today I am expressing my gratitude to my knees, amazing body parts that enable me to move around and help me humbly express my reverence for God in the face of the unfathomable mysteries of life.