Last week, I finally reached a fitness goal I’d been working toward for most of the summer: I did four sets of ten pull-ups with the thinnest assistance band we have.
Now that I’d met that goal, I’d be doing pull-ups with no assistance the following week. I was happy, but I had mixed feelings about moving on to that next step.
I knew that pulling myself up and over the pull-up bar with no help at all, even just a few times, was going to be tough. But, I reminded myself that it had been difficult every time I graduated to a lighter assistance band, and this next step would be the same. Difficult, but ultimately doable.
I was all fired up to make the attempt when I woke up a few days ago with a painfully inflamed shoulder, the type of soreness that meant I’d done something stupid. And I knew right away what that was. The day before, I had worked my shoulders with dumbbells that were just too heavy for my 44-year-old joints.
The thing is, I know my shoulder joints are a bit cantankerous, as are my knees. Most of the time, I just modify an exercise to work with my joints rather than against them, and I’m perfectly happy just to do what I can. I don’t know why I pushed myself so hard, but I have to live with the consequences. No working my shoulder until it heals. That means no pull-ups, among other things. I’m going to lose ground.
When these things happen, I sometimes question myself about why I continue to push myself so hard when I work out.
I know my dog wonders that very thing. She sits near my daughter and I as we exercise in the garage, often with a look of concern and puzzlement in her expressive eyes.
Why do my people do this? Every morning, they come out here and huff and puff and moan and groan. Makes no sense to me.
I haven’t even enjoyed serious exercise until the few years. I’m terrible at most every sport. I much prefer reading, writing, teaching, crafting, and that sort of thing. Mental gymnastics? Yes. Cartwheels? No.
And yet, there’s something about the discipline of exercise and the satisfaction of goals met that drives me to continue. That’s why it’s so annoying when one reckless choice ruins weeks of progress.
While grumbling about my shoulder yesterday, I thought about how seemingly small, foolish decisions have affected my spiritual life. One evening spent reading too late instead of getting necessary rest, one children’s church class taught without enough prayerful preparation, one morning without meaningful devotions, and I can experience a spiritual setback that seems to come from nowhere. Worse, those setbacks affect others.
Yet, they serve to turn me back to Christ as the source of strength and wisdom. They bring humility, healing, and growth. They remind me that I am still a vulnerable child who needs her Father.
O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. – Jeremiah 10:23
Without me ye can do nothing. – John 15:5b
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. – Philippians 4:6
What have you learned from physical or spiritual setbacks in your life? I appreciate your thoughtful comments.