The last 5 months I have accomplished what feels like a enormous feat in terms of physical fitness. I fast jogged my first 5K (I refrain from using the word “run” as to not insult those who actually do it. I am not a runner and never will be. But, hey, I gave it my best), biked 100 miles in a day, and can confidently say I’ve mastered 6am workouts (it’s taken about a month and a half to make it a routine, but I’m there!). So this morning, pre-workout, I decide to hop on the scale and do a little progress report.
At 5:47am, the bathroom scale in our house informs me that I’ve lost…….2 pounds.
If there’s ever a feeling of time completely wasted, that was it. My initial reaction was “forget this, I’m going back to bed!” I felt defeated. Like the last 5 months have been all for nothing. I can’t really explain why I went to the gym anyways this morning, but it gave me some time to think this whole thing through. If the scale wasn’t changing, why was I still pushing forward?
The battle for my emotional and physical perseverance had begun.
If weight loss was my only goal, I had every right to throw in the towel. But it wasn’t, right? That’s what I kept asking myself. One the way to the gym, I reviewed in my head all the reasons that I get up at a disgustingly early hour to work out. I cheered myself on with each goal I named outside of losing weight, because there were several. I was experiencing success in other areas, and had more motives for working out than I realized. My perspective was empowering and for today, it gave me exactly what I needed to push through one more workout.
Much of our time spent pursuing goals rests on our perspective of the journey. If we’re running at what feels like a moving or disappearing target, we’ve got to find something immovable and unchanging to focus on instead. Otherwise we’ll just run in circles… or we’ll quit.
The feeling of unattainable goals hits me whenever I tell someone I’m back in school to get my RN, and their follow-up question is “when do you finish?” I just want to cry, “I don’t knooooow! Maybe never!!” The end of this journey is not in my line of vision yet and when someone asks me to try and find it, my internal response is pure drama (I try to polish up my outward response to reflect more of a calm ; ).
I sat down with my advisor last week, and our conversation gave me the same feeling as when I stepped on the scale this morning. She started saying something along the lines of, “it looks like you need to re-take…” and the rest of her words floated into space as I stared at her, with a blank look of defeat. It’s hard to explain what it feels like to be a freshman…again… at age 25. But in that meeting, it felt like I was just treading water.
All of this got me thinking. There’s a time to focus on the end, and a time to focus on just the next step. If I don’t set up smaller goals along the way, I may lose the desire and the inertia to finish the bigger, long-term goals I have put in place for my life. After all, our big accomplishments are a patchwork of many, smaller successes.
To bike 100 miles in a day, I didn’t decide the night before to take up cycling.
I won’t walk into a university for the first time and sign up to walk with the next graduating class.
It’s a class, woven into a semester, pieced together over a long period of time to make a degree. It’s one bike ride, that doubles in the length, that develops the mental toughness to eventually go distances I never imagined while biking my first 5 miles. It’s the character developed in the process of pushing through each moment to carry us through to the next.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” -Romans 5:3-5a
At the end of that verse is hope, but at the beginning is problems and trials. Hope is something developed along the way, in the midst of the trials that demand endurance, eventually giving us the strength of character we need to find hope. And not just any hope, a hope that does not disappoint.
It’s one workout at a time. It’s one exam to push through. It’s one evening spent alone to find security in. It’s one doctor’s appointment to brave. It’s one uncomfortable confrontation to face. It’s one instance of swallowing our pride to love the unlovable. It’s one moment of choosing forgiveness rather than vengeance. Each individual moment in our journey shapes us. Every time we do the hard thing, our ability to persevere stretches a little further. Our once soft muttering of “I don’t think I can do that” turns into a tenacious “bring it on!” over trial and over time.
Did I mention that while in process of writing this entry, I failed a pretty important exam in my A&P class, sealing the fate of a necessary re-take for the entire course?
I’m in it with you. This is not a skill-set I have mastered, but a necessary change of perspective and shifting of goals to keep myself from giving up. For me, putting my hope in the Lord and the bigger picture of what He is doing has re-shaped my mindset, and given me the ability to see the progress in my life, even when it’s only internal. He is so much more interested in who we are becoming in the journey than reaching the end.
I was telling my dad about a reoccurring series of excitement followed by disappointment that had been cycling in my life. I felt myself loosing my optimism and my desire to push on. I remember saying that I was afraid, above all else, that I would become a cynic and lose the ability to enter another situation with the same wide-eyed, hopeful enthusiasm that I had before. That life would make me sour and I would quit anticipating good things. What if I was disappointed and let down again? How many more situations was I supposed to walk into with hope of a different outcome. His answer?
Just one more.