After a whirlwind of a year, life has gotten (dare I say) comfortable recently. We are settled into our house, our jobs, our church, our activities… We added a kid, which changed A LOT. But now he is incorporated into our new normal routine and it feels natural, like it has always been this way. That’s good, right?
In some ways, definitely. We underwent a significant amount of change and adjustment this year, so feeling comfortable and stable is a welcome relief. But it also seems to bring an unsettling feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe I am having trouble trusting the stability and comfort. This can’t possibly last. Or maybe I am realizing that I don’t want it to last, not just like this anyway. How do I determine the line between being comfortable and being complacent?
I have come to an important realization about myself the past several months. When left to my own human devices, I am lazy. Really lazy. Oh, and selfish. I like comfort and stability. Is that inherently wrong? Maybe not. But it becomes a problem when my desire for comfort is stronger than my commitment to live purposefully and faithfully.
My husband likes to exercise. That’s an understatement. He loves it. He thrives on it. He is so motivated to exercise that he occasionally runs on his lunch break and gets up ridiculously early some days so that he can exercise without missing out on quality family time after work. I find this inspiring (and aggravating). How can he be so diligent? I don’t even like to do exercise classes because the instructors push me beyond my comfort zone, and that doesn’t fit into my view of a “relaxing exercise time”. (I am pretty sure that is not the adjective that is supposed to precede that phrase.)
Then X-Force happened. My husband introduced me to the new resistance-based exercise equipment at our gym, and he offered to do it with me the first time so I would know what to do. Basically, the whole concept behind these machines is to make the user uncomfortable. In fact, if you are not straining with all of your might at the end of a set, you aren’t doing it right. And it’s not just about the weight. You are instructed to count to three on your way up, then count to five as you slowly release the weight back down. Count to 5 right now for me. Now imagine you are doing it with bricks suspended over your head with only your weak, shaky arms holding them up. It’s a long time. And you do it over and over until you physically can’t do anymore. Then you do one more.
If you are like me, you may be thinking this sounds masochistic and torturous. (If you are like my husband, you are probably thinking this sounds incredible. As a therapist, I urge you to seek professional help.) But then I tried it, and I remembered why people do things like this. I felt so accomplished after each repetition and even more so after each set. When I was done with all of the machines, my arms felt like jell-o and I could barely pick up my keys. I was physically depleted and emotionally energized. I had forgotten how good it feels to push yourself to the point of complete exertion and live through it. I had forgotten how much strength I had in me when I really dug deep.
At first I told Dave that he had to come with me every time I did X-Force or I wouldn’t push myself hard enough. I know myself well, and I had a sense that, as much as I loved the feeling of accomplishment after completing such an arduous task, my lazy and self-loving nature would prevent me from being uncomfortable enough to really do it right. But then I found myself at the gym alone one day, and my muscles almost craved the sensation of the X-Force machines. I went for it. I pushed myself as hard as I could, and I remembered my husband’s words- “Now do one more.” And my shaky, tired arms managed to do another.
I want to live my life “doing one more”. I don’t want to be comfortable all of the time because I have grown so much from discomfort and pain. Physically, I feel my muscles getting stronger and more sure. I know this is true for my spiritual and emotional growth also. When I push past my comfort zone and trust- God, others, my own body- I grow. I mature. I get stronger.
And then it hit me. An area where I seem all too “comfortable” with resistance is in my relationship with God. I find myself pressing in to my will and my self-determination, leaving little room for anyone else, especially God. Then I am inevitably reminded that resistance toward God is indeed futile. He is bigger, stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more intuitive and more powerful than I am. Trying to push against God is like trying to leg-press a mac truck. That is not resistance. It is injury. It is insanity. I want to learn the difference between the resistance that pushes me beyond my comfort zone and challenges me to be better and the resistance that results from my own need for control. The resistance that injures me instead of strengthens me.
Occasionally when I am going through the line of exercise machines, I forget to check the settings and attempt to lift the weight of a 300 pound linebacker working out next to me. Needless to say, the bar doesn’t move. But other times, the set weight isn’t actually as much as I think I can do, and I have a choice. Keep it where it is and take it easy or increase the weight and struggle. My flesh tells me to keep it where it is, but I am trying to lean in to my discomfort and stay attuned to my spirit in those moments, and when I do, I often hear it whispering “Now do one more.”