Weak arms and unlit lamps

I am in Bootcamp.  It hurts.  Some people say it is a sweet pain, that the end goal makes it all feel worth it but sometimes as I’m lying on the mat, trying with all my might to get my 2-month post natal abs to raise my legs even one inch, the end goal is just getting through until the instructor gives you a break.  Why do I do this, you may ask?  I do this for a couple of reasons.  The first and most superficial reason is that I want to look better.  I want to look better to other people and to myself.  I want to have all of my stomach fit into my jeans, not just the lower 8th.  I’m not as concerned about weight as I am about how things appear.  I also want to be healthier.  Having a baby at 31 is different from having a baby at 25.  My body doesn’t bounce back as easily as it did after my first child.  I’m noticing pain in my lower back that wasn’t there before (thanks to the soft-boiled egg abs from throwing up for 9 months).  Hopefully bootcamp will make my body better able to withstand raising 3 kids.  Hopefully I will feel stronger, less tired, better able to cope.  Bootcamp also offers me something else very important.  It offers me the chance to get to know people I might not encounter in the everyday of my life.  People who are out working, playing, doing different things in their lives completely separate from my own except for these tri-weekly training sessions.

I am in Life and Spiritual bootcamp.  It hurts.  Some people say it is a sweet pain, but as I’m lying in the middle of the night praying, crying or angry or desperate, I lose sight of the end goal.  We all have times where it feels like every part of us is being battered and bruised and we wonder why in the world we’re putting ourselves through this.  It can come upon us suddenly.  We’ve been faithful and relatively cheerful, serving others in various ways, working in ways that suit us, using our talents and gifts and WHAM.  We’re in a place where we’re not as patient.  That person is starting to annoy us.  We wake up dreading this role that used to bring us such joy.  Where you used to love playing with your kids lately, you just can’t wait until nap time.  Walking in the door, you kiss your spouse because that’s what you do, not because you’re particularly excited to see them.  You’re feeling unappreciated, resentful, and wondering why do I do this?

I hate this kind of bootcamp.  There are times in my life and ministry that are so so tough.  I get jealous of what other people get to do in their ministry or life and get edgy because my life and commitments won’t allow me to do the same right now.  Sometimes I feel unappreciated because my role seems minor and supportive.  Times like this sneak up on me and I find myself getting irritable and losing my perspective.  Bootcamp is all about perspective.  Bootcamp means enduring the aches and pains along the way, believing that what you’re doing will make you stronger, healthier, better.

When I’m in a place of spiritual bootcamp, once I realize it, I know that there are certain things, exercises, that I need to do to get to a place of health.

First, I realize that the end goal is and should be the focus.  When I’m ministering to other people, be it people in my community, church, or family, I need to remember that there are consequences to what I’m doing that I may never see.  When I think that maybe I won’t go or won’t bother talking to that new person in the lobby at church, I try to think of God’s purpose in putting these opportunities in my life.  Opportunities don’t always seem like a blessing at the time.  They can feel taxing and little and not worth it.  But, what if my smile is the only friendliness that new person has seen in a church in 20 years?  What’s the long-term goal?  What about that retreat your spouse has been excited about for months.  On the second day about 6:30pm, the baby just had a blowout, a bag of flour got spilled, you’re out of milk, and your older kids are fighting and you just heard a crash.  Your spouse comes home about 2 hours later after the kids are in bed, bubbling with joy about their experience.  Do you blast them back out the door with an anger filled account of your awful time or do you focus on the end goal.  A healthier spouse who feels rejuvenated which can lead to a healthier marriage?  Think of the long-term goals; our personal goals and God’s ultimate goal of showing his love here on earth to everyone.  Do you have your eyes on the goal?

Second, get what you need to sustain you through bootcamp.  Water and stretching are good but in spiritual bootcamp we need more.  Look to God first.  If you need to air your hurts and anger, tell God.  I got the best piece of advice from my Mother in Law early on in my husband’s and my ministry.  She said “Tell God everything you want him to know about the situation and how you want him to fix it.  He might even do it.”  If I’m feeling like I want to tell another person ‘in all love’ all the things that they need to change, I try to tell God first.  This is one of the most therapeutic things I do.  David did it with his Psalms and we can do it, too.  There’s something about voicing your feelings to God in an honest way.  He can take it and he wants us to come to him with everything, anger and frustration included.  I’ve found that after these times with God, I’ve come away with a much better perspective on the situation.  I’m clearer about the role me and my emotions play in the situation and am better able to discern what God would have me do.  Sometimes that means talking to a person about a particular situation and sometimes it means be silent.  One of those is easier than the other.

Other things I need to get me through bootcamp involve taking care of self.  One of our favorite phrases in our house is an old one passed down from great-grandmothers.  Blowing the stink off.  Get out, blow off steam, try something different, do something you love, get out-of-town, let your hair down, go on a date night with your spouse, drive and play really loud music (I love 80’s power ballads).  Get your focus off the tough stuff for a while.  A change is as good as a rest but make sure you get lots of rest too.

Third, ask for help and get it.  If your spouse is away and you need a break, get someone to watch your kids.  Trade off playdates.  I hate asking for help; I love giving it but have a hard time receiving.  It feels like I’m going to inconvenience people.  I am learning to ask for help when I need it.  Whether it’s day-to-day help or going to talk to a counselor, there’s no shame.  It doesn’t mean you’re not capable, or doing a good job.  Getting help means you can get through bootcamp.

What’s my end goal?  To be a woman who fears the Lord.  When I look at these verses in Proverbs that prompted this post, I see a woman who is likely has gone through spiritual bootcamp.  It mentions her strength so she can accomplish her tasks and that her lamp does not go out at night.

Proverbs 31:16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers. (NIV)

Dealing with Spiritual Bootcamp means that when these times do come I try to make sure I have the reserves, the stamina, and the help I need to be strong.  This woman had been through all those things in life and serving others that can drain us and take our focus away from God.  I believe making it through these times gave her stamina and strength for times that would come in the future.  I don’t see a woman who had it so easy and started out with this kind of strength.  Gaining this kind of strength is a process, not something to be accomplished in one session of bootcamp but something that comes with persistence and courage.  I’m hoping that I learn how to endure them with more grace and love each time.

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