The other day I was doing push ups and realized I think I am much stronger than I actually am.
I have had this same revelation again a while back when I spied a box in the garage that was in my way. I bent over (in the most incorrect box lifting form) and tried to pick it up and move it. Well, it was very heavy, so I stood back up, gathered myself and then squatted down again (the correct box lifting form this time) in another attempt to move the box. I got the box moved, but once again I looked at my body in disbelief at it's weakness.
I have always been strong. This is what I tell myself, but have I really? Or has my brain just automatically filled itself up with delusions? Has my brain attempted to make reality out of what I want to be rather than, well, reality? Even when I am my most fit, strongest self I have always been caught thinking I am stronger than I really am (usually I realize my mistaken perception while doing something like carrying a 240 pound freakishly large piece of musical equipment up a flight of stairs with my husband on the other end).
I can't help but notice that this kind of thought pattern has been seen within my spiritual life as well. There are moments where I have been crushed beneath the weight of some life problem and I feel my mouth drop in awe that I was so weak. I will find myself thinking, "This shouldn't have affected me like this! I thought I was spiritually stronger than this!"
I am starting to find that these are the moments when actual strengthening occurs because strength is developed in the tension, the repetitive push and pull.
If I don't know where I am weak (perhaps my arm muscles-physically OR my prayer life-spiritully) then I don't know where I need to focus my strengthening attention.
BUT, knowing that I should be fit doesn't make me fit. Knowing that I need a prayer life doesn't make a prayer life. So when I see my weakness played out in my life then I must stand before the reality of my vulnerability and decide if I want to grow stronger, though it mostly likely means quite a bit of hard work, or remain weak, though it means a life of enslavement to inability. I even hate to use the word "inability" because that would imply that you could just have someone else with "ability" do the hard stuff for you, but, let me tell you, no one can live your spiritual life for you.
Not your parents.
Not your spouse.
Not your pastor.
Not your friend.
In Phillipians 2:12 it says,
"work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ)."
No one can do that for you.
We live in a world where it is becoming increasingly easy to ignore physical weakness. An extra 40 pounds and the racing pulse and shortness of breath that come with it are much easier to ignore with a world full of escalators instead of stairs, wheels on our luggage or children's backpacks, TV remotes instead of a physical knob on the TV, email instead of walking to the physical mailbox, shopping online instead of a physical store, and a great percentage of people who look/huff and puff in the exact same way, etc.
It is the same with the spiritual. We have the "verse of the day" pop into our email inbox instead of actually having to touch and crack open our bible itself, we use our iPhone bible app in church instead of actually bringing that bible to church, we read devo's from one of the popular devo writers instead of actually digging into the word and studying on our own with only the prompting of the Holy Spirit to lead us. Then we wonder why we are weak. Why temptation is so hard to fight. Why storms blow us over instead of blowing over us. Why the "race" of life we are supposed to be running is leaving us breathless and panting and hopeless.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says.
"Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus"
In order to throw aside the encumbrances (the weakness) of our lives we have to acknowledge them, we have to see them, we have to look down at those weak, untoned, flabby spiritual arms and belly and legs and admit that we are weaker than we let ourselves think we are.
We are more shallow,
We are meaner,
We are more bitter,
We are more gossipy,
We are angrier,
We lie more,
We cheat more,
We are more jealous,
We are more lustful, envious, gluttonous, manipulative, narcissistic, pessimistic, lazy, complacent, apathetic, and unloving than we think we are.
Ahhhh and ouch.
Once we can admit and truly see our weakness as it is then we can finally settle into the verse found in Hebrews 12:11-13
"For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. So then, brace up and reinvigorate and set right your slackened and weakened and drooping hands and strengthen your feeble and palsied and tottering knees, and cut through and make firm and plain and smooth, straight paths for your feet, so that the lame and halting [limbs] may not be put out of joint, but rather may be cured."
The strongest people are the ones who never underestimate how weak they are and as a result they are continually bracing up, reinvigorating, setting right, and strengthening their spiritual selves. As a result, when the wind blows, they stand firm. When the load is great, they do not crumple beneath it. When the race is long, they can endure it.
Only you can do this for yourself, so acknowledge your weaknesses and begin the work of strengthening.