No matter what I do it's hard. Over the years, I have found ways to make the hardness more enjoyable and even joy-filled, but if I'm exercising right, it's always still there. If I'm pushing myself to the limit and stepping forward into things I couldn't previously do, hard is a word I need to get used to. No one can convince me burpees get easy. It's just not possible. There will never be a day I walk into the gym hoping the first thing out of my trainer's mouth is, "how about twenty burpees." I hate them. I don't want to do them and will always be glad when they are over. But I do them! Every time.
Because here's the thing; I don't expect for it to be easy. I actually signed up and paid for it to be hard. I expect to be challenged, pushed to my limits and uncomfortably stretched. I want to burn five hundred calories an hour, sweat right through my shirt. I want the sting, the burn. I want to wake up sore in the morning. Paul got it too. He knew pain was for the gain and because of what he knew, he welcomed it. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize," 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
Six months at this pace and I will be different. I will be stronger, leaner, faster. I will be able to burpee and squat with the best of them. But you know what it still won't be? It still won't be easy. Working out, lifting, running, eating healthy. It won't be easy. It might come natural. It might be a part of my routine. It might even be who I am, but it won't be easy.
I will still have to show up. I will still have to work hard. I will still have to sweat, push through, dig deep and tune into my inner athlete to keep going. It's from this place of health, I find the strength to continue doing hard things and thus continue to increase my strength and endurance that will ultimately prepare me for harder things in the future.
It reminds me a lot of our faith journey.
I used to hope for faith to get easier. I lived thinking one day I would finally arrive at a place of ease, where the faith would just come naturally and without much thought. Faith grows and our ability to activate it comes more quickly but growth and easy are two words we don't usually find in the same sentence. If you think about it; it's makes more sense. Faith is based on being in over your head and growth is about change. Those are just not easy words. It's about risk and challenge, doing things you can't do, believing in what you cannot see, experiencing what you you've never experience.
If faith were easy then it wouldn't take faith.
In this place, we learn to lean into the tension. Jillian Michaels says, "You must become comfortable being uncomfortable." There is a place you can exist where faith and discomfort meet. The faith of what will be and the discomfort of what is. It's a place of wild transformation. A place of miracles, growth and divine presence. It's the place where you do what you previously couldn't and you become who you previously weren't. And it's from this place we find rest because in this place we develop new strength. New strength provides the courage to press forward into harder things and thus we continue to increase our capacity and endurance.
Because the things I struggle with today should not be the same things I struggle with next year. Just like the things I struggled with last year are not the things I struggled with today. It hasn't gotten easier, but because of my persistence, I have gotten stronger. I've developed new strength and my new strength has given me the boost necessary to move forward in the pursuit of even more strength.
Health is not a means to and end. I'm not doing it to arrive somewhere so I can then stop doing it. It's a life style. If it's not something I do as a means to an end, then there must be a way to do it in which the hardness of it doesn't overshadow the goodness of it. Along the way I've learned a few things;
1. Find good leaders
"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith,"
Don't get tripped up by the word. Is there something that's too hard for you? Find someone who can do it and ask them to teach you. It's discipleship in it's most basic form. A good leader invites you into something just a little out of reach and then empowers and equips you to do more than you thought you could do.
2. Find good people
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,"
You know what? I can do just about anything as long as I'm beside a good friend! There are days I go to the gym because I am motivated to go and then there are days I go because Jaime and Holley will be there. The miles just don't seem as long when they are filled with stories and laughter and the joy of life together. I love friends. They make me better. They make life better. Faith is contagious. When my friends believe big, before long, I find myself also believing big.
3. Find good places
"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,"
There's something about places. It's not just a Dr. Seuss thing. It's about leaders and people, but it's also about spaces and places. Sometimes you just have to go somewhere because there is something about that place that inspires you to be different. You can't always explain it, but something in the air invites you in deeper. These are places you run when you struggle, places you hide when you're scared and places you dance when you persevere. Good places, change people.
The Father has so much for you. There's more ahead of you. It's not going to be easy. It's not meant to be. Your faith is actually dependent upon it being hard. You have strength waiting to be developed. Endurance waiting to grow. Should you start exercising your faith, here with Him, you will not be the same person this time next year. What you struggle with today, will not be what you struggle with next year. You will still have struggles, but the strength developed today will prepare you for the endurance needed tomorrow. We serve a mighty God. He holds the world in the palm of His hands. He brings life and He has invited you to experience it to the fullest.
Fullness comes from hard things, but you don't have to do them alone. Find your leaders, embrace your people and explore your places.
What hard thing are you doing this year?
Who are the people ahead of you empower you to persevere?
Where are the places you find presence?