I’m pretty much the last person on earth qualified to write about strength training. Sure, we have a metal mountain of a weight setup in our garage, but I’ve never used the thing. About once a month I make it in to Cardio Barre to do this amazingly intense ballerina-style workout, and I collapse on the floor in a flop sweat about half way through while other hardcore women twice my age continue to keep with it.
Back before Jared and I were married, we couldn’t see enough of each other, so we’d meet up early in the morning to go workout before ministry school. The image of him waiting for me in the cold gym parking lot forced me out of my comfy bed at 4am each morning and I’d stagger along on a treadmill watching HGTV until the balance tipped from zombie to something more human. But then we got married and forgot that nonsense.
Over these past few months, the Lord has brought me through some spiritual strength training. My spasming muscles tell me He’s far from done with this leg (haha) of my development, but I’d like to share a few things I’m learning.
Physical Strength is about the Yes’s. Spiritual Strength requires some No’s.
I want to do it all. Be everywhere. Contribute to all the things. Leave my email inbox empty and my calendar bursting. But when I do all that, I focus on the appearance of strength because I’m doing it in my own abilities. I want to say “yes” to everything so I won’t let anyone down, won’t seem like I can’t handle it, won’t miss out, won’t be left out.
As I ask the Lord for His strength, He asks me to say some no’s. To seek His intentions in my schedule rather than spending myself at every opportunity. To set time aside for priorities He’s given me. To build in margin and energy to connect with Him. To make sure that I’m giving from the overflow, not just throwing words out on the blog or social media to make sure I keep up-to-date with the posting.
Where showing-off my own strength is about always saying yes, growing in spiritual strength requires me to agree with God when He asks me to say no. Instead of doing everybody’s everything—including my own—I want to do His thing.
Balance the weight with the number of reps.
Okay, I’m pretty sure this is also a workout-y thing, but if I have it backward, bear with me.
Heavier weights + fewer reps = build bulked up muscle (growth)
Lighter weights + more reps = tone your muscle (endurance)
Some seasons bring heavier weights. More time intensive opportunities. Greater emotional, mental, or relational expenditures. These growth seasons call for fewer reps because after a few curls or presses or whatever, I’m not going to be able to go any farther. And then He brings us to the calmer seasons. Lighter priorities so we can carry more of them longer, farther, as we build endurance.
Here’s my problem: I like to use the heaviest weights I can find, piling on all the passions and projects to do the maximum number of weights possible until I feel like my arms will rip out of my sockets with fatigue. God’s teaching me not to do that. (Praise His Holy name!) I’ve started talking with Him about the seasons I’m in, and asking for guidance on reps and weights. Here’s the kicker. When I’m in a heavy weight season, I can’t take on even the little new weights. It kills me ’cause from the outside, it looks like I’m turning down this little 1/2 pound opportunity because it’s too much. A fun little 1/2 pounder that looks amazing and such a blessing. But when Holy Spirit has me doing max reps with heavy weights—you know, like 12 pounds—I can’t thwart my training by going off book.
P.S. too many light weights thrown on together makes a weighty undertaking, not an endurance program. That one’s for free. 😉
Holy Spirit isn’t equipment or an exercise. He’s our Coach.
I have this mental picture of me rolling up to a gym. I wander onto the weight floor, obviously not having a clue about what I’m doing there. This trainer walks over for our coaching session and we talk for a few minutes about what I’ve done before and what my goals are. We discuss my problem areas and he suggests exercises to help build strength in those places. He hands me a printout outlining the exercises we’ll go through that day and starts walking over to the first machine, thinking I’ll follow in step. Instead, I grab my water bottle and head for the door. “That was great, thanks! Whew, such a workout!”
Ya’ll, sometimes I do this to Holy Spirit. The one the Father sent in Jesus’s name to be our comforter, teacher, reminder, and helper. He and I, we meet up to talk through an area I’m struggling with. He leads me to scripture or reminds me of what I’ve learned. He guides me to a plan of action and I act like that in and of itself was working out instead of recognizing that I’m simply connecting with Coach.
Spiritual strength training comes when I do what He says. When I keep coming back to Him for direction. My quiet time isn’t a workout. It’s the training session so I can get out on the training floor of my work, life, job, ministry, family, and not hurt anybody by exercising my faith incorrectly.
Does the Lord have you in a season of strength training? Is He calling you to say some no’s so you can respond better to His yes’s?
Does your growth season require that you stop adding those little weights on top of the big ones already maxing out reps in your life? Or maybe are you in a season of endurance and it’s not time to pick up that larger dumbbell yet?
What is your Coach, your Holy Spirit, speaking to you about right now? (If you haven’t met Him yet, the first step is to Come To Jesus.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts and talk through any questions! Please join our conversation on Facebook!