I haven’t gone full-on fan-girl since my teens, but lately, certain television programs had me leaning dangerously close to that response: America Ninja Warriors and the Olympics. Women’s gymnastics was both rolled in to one. If you watched even a smidgeon of Simone Biles performance, you were likely left with quite an attractive wide-eyed, jaw-dropped response.
How can one individual be so talented? So graceful? So incredibly strong?
Through training. Hours and hours–upon hours!–of training, very little of which, if I were to guess, would be considered fun. Actually, I’m pretty sure the opposite is true, because training hurts. I know. I’ve tried to exercise on occasion. 😉
To put it mildly, my treadmill and I have a love-hate relationship. And yet, despite the physical pain I know is sure to come, despite the unattractive red, blotchy face and the unladylike gasps for breath that totter close to hyperventilation, I continue to lace up again and again.
Why? When I could be sipping an iced, snickerdoodle latte instead?
(Insert a video of a teenager rolling their eyes while saying, “Duh,” here.)
Okay, so stupid question aside. How about I throw out another one. Why do I go to such lengths to avoid spiritual training?
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I go to Bible studies and church. I read my daily devotions and listen to an appropriate amount of praise music. I’ll even sing along (more loudly than I ought, and quite off-tune) on occasion.
But when it comes time for the more painful endurance, stretching, or strength-training workouts, I can easily turn in to a whiny toddler-Christian. You know the type–the woman who clings to her comfort zone like it’s an old, raggedy blanky crying, “Why me???”
When I should be falling to my knees with my hands opened and arms raised instead, saying, “I trust You, Father. Teach me. Grow me.”
You know the phrase, “When it rains it pours?” It exists for a reason, and I’m pretty sure those downpours are God-tentional. As are the storms, the long arid seasons, the ouches, and the round abouts. With every panicked and painful step, God is training us, molding us into His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10), fully equipped to fulfill the role He planned just for us.
And it’s a good plan. A glorious plan. Much better than anything you or I could dream up. Promise. God has such great things in store for us, the kinds of things dreams–God sized dreams–are made of.
But we’re not ready. Our feeble knees need to be strengthened, our distracted hearing honed, and our ever-grasping hands pried loose … so we can hold on tight to something better.
When I’m feeling especially overwhelmed, I focus on one of my favorite “training” passages–Psalm 18:32-36:
32 God arms me with strength,
and He makes (is making) my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
He strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made (is making) me great.
(Parenthetical inserts mine)
Knowing this, I can view every struggle I face differently–with hope rather than despair. With courage rather than fear. With joy and expectancy rather than defeat and uncertainty. It’s a choice. At each moment, we can live as victims or victors. We can embrace each moment with faith and opened, surrendered hands, or we can cling to our comfort zones and try to hide out from the storm. Notice I said try. Hiding won’t stop the storm from coming; it will only keep us from growing stronger through it.
Other resources you might find helpful or encouraging: