The past few weeks have been really good, the kind of really good that makes you nervous about halfway through when you start wondering about the inevitable crash ahead. I'm not speaking of circumstances here, like everything happening was good. More of a state of being, that no matter what was happening, good or bad, I was able to give the circumstance the mental space it deserved. Triumphs didn't earn my salvation, failures were not reflections of my worthlessness, and sin led me to Godly sorrow instead of worldly sorrow. Faith was easy. I was in the zone.
It's not that I was expecting something disastrous, I just know from experience that faith is hardly ever easy for me. Even just a couple weeks of rest from the daily battle with my sinful nature leaves me weak and flabby. I started to get nervous a couple weeks ago when I read this from John Newton's Letters:
Strength of grace is not ordinarily acquired by those who sit still and live at ease, but by those who frequently meet with something that requires a full exertion of what power the Lord has given them.Um... Lord... Maybe this is why people aren't all that excited about following you? Just a thought.
I have never been a runner and never really wanted to be a runner. A combination of boredom with my workouts and only having access to a treadmill at home meant I was suddenly running distances I never thought possible for me. Sure other people can do that, but not me. And while full on running for me is a light jog for most of the runners I know, I actually enjoy the pain and mental workout that comes with running.
I am pretty certain that it is impossible to maintain my affinity for baking and ever call myself an avid runner, but I've started reading a few articles about how to race. Although it should have been obvious, many of those articles are on training your mind to push your body. One particularly good article quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger about pushing himself until he passes out because the benefits of pushing himself outweigh the inconvenience of passing out. Although this advice isn't intended to be taken literally for runners, it is meant to illustrate that the benefits of pushing your physical body harder than most people are willing to push it outweigh the momentary discomforts.
Enter 2 Corinthians 5: 4, 6:3-4, and 4: 17.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses...
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.I'm starting to think that trying to follow Jesus is like trying to hug a cactus...
There are all sorts of people in my life who aren't following Jesus, and I totally understand why. To have our overwhelming desires for intimacy, excitement, newness, comfort, image, etc. met right now in this instant is an unbearable temptation. I get it. I fail all the time. And then I try to pretend it wasn't that big of a deal or maybe God should change his standards or maybe I'll just give up for a while. Or best of all, maybe if I pretend he's not real, then I can do whatever I want, guilt-free. Only none of those options ever work. They weaken my will, allowing me to give in to temptation, but truth always comes back.
And the truth is, I haven't pushed myself to passing out. I do groan in this mortal body, longing to be swallowed up by life, but I have not pushed myself to great endurance. So weeks like last week where everything comes crashing down emotionally, and my sinful nature bears down on me from nowhere like an avalanche, and things that were easy last week feel impossible this week - it feels like mile ten of my twelve mile run, like I'm going to die.
What would a trainer say if this were a race? Push harder and run your best split because the only thing stopping you is your mind. And who cares if you pass out trying (even though you probably won't)? Passing out is not going to kill you.
Maybe, just maybe, that is what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians. I sure hope it's not, But I think it is.