“You are in it, team. You are now IN IT. It hurts. STAY in it, though. THIS is where change happens!”
This is what Carley, aka Fitness Barbie, aka the instructor of my Body Pump class yells at all of us Lesser Beings, who show up faithfully every Monday and Wednesday at 8 am, carrying with us our high hopes that one day, if we work hard enough, we may look even 1/8 as good as Carley does.
”You are in it. Stay. In. It”, she shouts again.
And “in it” we are. We just finished our 75th lunge on one leg, and she’s asking for 16 more. I’m not really a cursing person (except in my own head, and there I mimic only the very most vulgar of sailors), but I just accidentally said out loud, “what the f**k?!?” (Only without the asterisks.)
But what else can you say? Because this crap hurts. It hurts really bad.
It hurts so bad that I’ve already contemplated quitting at least 15 times.
During the tricep set, I contemplated quitting 8 times.
The truth is, every moment of the entire hour, except for maybe the cool down, I seriously contemplate quitting.
Not only do I contemplate quitting, I found myself thinking things like:
- This is ridiculous. It really doesn’t need to be THIS hard
What is the point of this? Do I really even care that much about being fit?
The sauna sounds way more appealing.
I continue on though, and as it turns out, change is happening.
I see definition in my arms and legs that didn’t used to be there. Clothes fit me better. I carried my two-year old on one hip and my four-year old on the other today, and it wasn’t even all that hard. I’ve stayed in it, and change is happening.
Now switch gears with me from Fitness Barbie to “Jesus stuff”. (Admittedly, an odd jump.)
I just finished reading a book called, “A Praying Life”.
The book is about prayer, but there are several other themes that weave their way in and out of the chapters. One theme that really resonated with me, was a concept the author called “Staying In The Story”. Or, you could word it the way Carley does, “Stay in It’.
The author discuss how God loves us, and wants to answer our prayers, but how even MORE than that, He wants to SHAPE us into the image of Jesus.
“We forget that God is not a genie, but a person who wants to shape us into the image of His son, as much as He wants to answer our prayers”
We cry out to God for all SORTS of things. Some valid, others not. “Fix this, heal this, take this away, give this to me, let me, stop this, provide this, protect me from this, do this or them”
Sometimes God answers, but other times, He doesn’t.
“When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered , the overwhelming temptation is to leave the story — to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during ambiguity, we get to know God. In fact, that is how intimacy grows in all close relationships”
The author goes on to discuss “gospel stories”.
”The gospel, the Father’s gift of his Son to die in our place, is so breathtaking that since Jesus’ death, no one has been able to tell a better story. If you want to tell (or live) a really good story, you have to tell (or live) a gospel story”.
Gospel stories have to do with suffering, then love, then redemption/change.
“We’d love to hear about God’s love for us, but suffering doesn’t mesh with our right to the “pursuit of happiness”. So we pray to escape a gospel story, when that is the best gift the Father can give us.”D
He continues talking about God’s story, and living in the story, and staying IN the story…Stay In It. Not abandoning hope, not giving up. WRESTLING with God if you have to, but wrestling on…not throwing in the towel entirely. Stay in it. Then watch and wait for His perfect story to unfold.
“Living in our Father’s story means living in tension. To live in the Father’s Story, remember these three things:
1) don’t demand that the story go away (in other words, surrender completely)
2) Look for the Storyteller. Look for his hand, then pray in light of what you are seeing
3) Stay in the story. Don’t shut down when it goes the wrong way
It’s so much easier to understand all of this when it’s Body Pump and Fitness Barbie we are talking about, but it’s the EXACT SAME (only infinitely more valuable) on a spiritual level.
In either scenario:
- the vernacular is the same. Words such as “change”, “tension”, “quit”, “stay” apply to both.
We want to change (our bodies or our hearts)
We “enter into” something in order to do that (a Body Pump class or a “Gospel Story”)
It’s hard, and we quickly identify “idols” (comfort and ease, for one)
We are faced with the decision to quit, once it gets hard. It’s true, there actually IS an easy way out, and you CAN take it.
IF we leave, the change doesn’t happen. (You won’t look like Carley OR Jesus.)
IF we stay, it does (You could look like Carley AND Jesus. Double threat).
The change typically starts to occur around the point of most difficulty (the 75th lunge, or the Situation For Which There Seems to Be No Hope)
Living in a gospel story exposes our idols, our false sources of love. When our idols are exposed, we often give up in despair-overwhelmed by both the other person’s sin and our own. But by simply staying in the story….continuing to show up for life, even if it seems pointless..the kingdom comes.
So…Stay In It. Stay in the Story.
Stay in the prayer, even if it seems to go unanswered
Stay in hope, even if the situation seems hopeless
Stay in obedience, even if you don’t understand the point
Stay with the person, they need the love
Stay in the uncertainty, and wait for the Storyteller to reveal the Story.
Stay In It. (This is where change happens)
Carley and Jesus promise.