Feeling Strong

There’s a quote from Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless that I really like:

“It is important in life not to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.”

I’ve watched the Crossfit “phenomenon” for quite a while over the last years. The first Crossfitter I met was a guy from a men’s retreat I went to whose story would knock your socks off (even if you’re wearing those knee-high’s they so often wear at a Crossfit “box”). As I watched him and others talk of the community they’d found in it, I related that to my own experience of community at the Daily Audio Bible.

crossfit unbreakableI’ve tried to accomplish many things alone in life, and one that has never worked well for me is growing in strength – not just the ability to lift more weight today than I did yesterday, but knowing my limits, pushing them, setting goals, and growing. Frankly, it’s been frustrating for years.

What I did today is no magic bullet, and it may not even be a good fit for me after the month and a half I signed on for, who knows. But what I did do is do something I’ve wanted in life – I joined a community of people set on finding their limits, pushing through them, and doing all of that, together.

My arms and chest ache tonight, and when my friend Keith texted me asking if he’d see me again tomorrow, I could think of quite a few reasons to rest up for a day… but I could think of even MORE reasons to simply show up again, because not only did I have a blast, but even this first day, I did things I didn’t know I could.

Feeling strong

It is important in life not to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.

Christopher McCandless

The Puny Life of Freedom

spacious sky

An undisciplined, self-willed life is puny;

an obedient, God-willed life is spacious.

Psalm 15:32 (Message)

Puny. Ever felt that way? It’s a very touchy-feely word. You hear it, and you can visualize it immediately. I’ve never really thought of what the word meant, so I looked it up today:

  1. pu·ny  

    /ˈpyo͞onē/
    Adjective
    1. Small and weak.
    2. Poor in quality, amount, or size.
     
    Synonyms
    little – small – petty – feeble – slight – weak – weakly

That’s the definition of puny. Small. Weak. Petty…. yeah, that’s puny. Of course none of us wants to be puny. So we imagine the opposite… strong. big. massive. necessary. That’s what I want, yeah. The thing is, though, you can’t just flip a switch here. Being puny is the result of a life of “puny-ness,” if that’s a word. It’s the result of accepting your role in life as insignificant and “less.”

The proverb for today on the Daily Audio Bible jumped out at me, not because of the word puny, but because of the alternative…. SPACIOUS. Not a common antonym, but accurate nonetheless. It make me imagine a Montana sky, although I’ve never seen one. An astronaut in orbit. A diver in the ocean.

These situations do not describe the person. They describe the environment that person lives within… where they dwell. Those who live undiciplined live the puny life because they actually stick themselves in a box that is so SMALL only THEY fit into it. It may feel free and easy, but in reality, it’s not. It’s small, tight, cramped, and nobody else wants in. The life that’s lived in light of something – of someONE – bigger is where it’s at. That’s where the space is. That’s where we can run, play, and grow strong. Where we can laugh, love, and enjoy.

I want space. I want to explore. To be free. To laugh. To relax. To fully engage. And even to fully DIS-engage.

 

montana sky

My Jericho

This weekend I head off to Indiana Outpost Boot Camp. This will be my second trip to this men’s retreat; I think the last time I went was two years ago. I was in the middle of discovering a lot of new things about myself as a man, husband, and child of God. I filled a journal with thoughts, words cried out to God, and words I heard back from Him (a very new experience for me – listening doesn’t come easy). My eyes were opened to passions on my heart I didn’t know existed, and that I couldn’t even talk about the first time they really hit me. Since that time, life has been different. I won’t say I’ve chosen the “red pill” (or was it blue?) every day, but my eyes have been opened. I know there’s more out there than I can see. I know I have a purpose, a battle to be part of, and brothers to grow with. I know that my relationship with my wife is more than just a partnership, more than just 2 people living in the same house who are occasionally in love, and more than a hopeful mess of emotions, hurt feelings, and highs and lows.

As I drove towards the retreat last time, I was considering this concept of “advance words” going into the weekend. Looking for a theme that God might have for me, something he wanted be on the back of my heart the whole time. I found it as I was about to leave Morgan County. As I drove into the little town of Morgantown, I saw this sign… “Welcome to Morgantown, home of the Braves.” That was it. BRAVE. I was venturing into something brand new. I was nervous, frightened, and totally in the dark as to what I was going into. I had very little expectations, and I liked that. But my nature is to maintain control and keep myself containable, if not fully contained. I had to let that go. I had to be BRAVE. And so it went. I pulled in, met the guys of my little platoon, and immersed myself in the experience. It was a blast.

This year as I go into this, God’s been opening my eyes to some walls I’ve built up in my life (or that have been built up around me with the help of others). Things like that “maintaining control” thing, having a managable sphere of influence (also known as my little bubble), and more or less, maintaining a comfort level with my life. I live in the country, but still maintain most of my life in the town I grew up in. I know a few people out here, but have very little opportunity to reach out to them or even know how to because my life is still so “under control.” The same things pop up in my life related to food, related to exercise, related to work. I like that comfortable medium between healthy and “easy.” That comfort level between “able to endure” and truly strong. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. It’s all over the map, and as I go into this weekend, I think that wall is the one to keep on my heart.

I want to see it fall. I want to see the city inside become vulnerable. I want to see God’s life flood into the places I’ve held back.

And so… Jericho. Jericho was not defeated through strength or might, intelligence or cunning. It was defeated by obedience, faith, and the power of God. Obedience to some rather simple things, actually… but also rather mundane, to be honest. Walk around the wall every day for a week? Yeah, right. I’d rather bust down the gate or die trying… or maybe just find a way around the city.

So where must I obey? Where must I step up, do what I know I’m to do, and trust God to do the rest? Well, for starters, I’ve got to show up. I was really hoping to go with at least one close friend I’ve developed in the past year, but that wound up not working out. For completely legit reasons, it just can’t hapen. And so I begin to doubt. “Maybe I should wait until next spring when we can go?” “Maybe I should have tried harder to bring someone with me?” “Maybe I should just take the weekend and go camping for a night by myself.”… “NO,” I hear. “GO.” And so I will – and this time, I won’t drive past the entrance and have to come back out of fear. 🙂

What else… find comfort. That’s a big one. It’s time to find the balance between being comfortable with where I am and where I feel God is leading us in the future, but also being comfortable with not knowing where those things are… to just be comfortable being me. Living in my own skin.

Another… build strength. I’ve never been much for commitment when it comes to strength, or even losing excess baggage. I can do it on a plan, but I’ve never found the reason for me that is going to take me from where I am to where I need to be. Not a plan. Not a diet. Not even a fear of something I might have to face if I didn’t change. I want a reason to eat right, exercise right, and, in general I guess, just live for something. A way to fit the day to day parts of life into that bigger picture. To be in the Matrix but not part of the Matrix. To be in the world, but not of it.

So that’s my Jericho. That’s the wall I choose to march around, around, and around this week, expecting God to show up.

I can’t wait for the command to SHOUT.

Afterthought… I went for a run between the cornfields tonight and found a creek with a big tree that had fallen across it. I decided to cross it. Then I decided to try a different way. Then I thought about giving up. Then I made up my mind that I was going to do it, in my strength and skill or not. So I walked, shimmied, and crawled across… and as I now think about Jericho, I wonder if that was my Jordan River crossing, and this blog post is my pile of rocks to look back on and See What God Does.