Stronger than yesterday

You guys, I LOVE the gym that I go to. It is seriously the best gym I’ve ever been a part of. Since moving home to Florida, I’ve really wanted to get back into shape, and to be more disciplined with my health. Personally, when I’m exercising and eating right, my life is just better. Plain and simple. I don’t know all about the science or the way it impacts my hormones, but it does something. And praise the Lord for it!

BCMF (Boot Camp Madness Fitness) offers HiiT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes as their basic package. So for the past couple of years (with a minor set back that you can read about here) I’ve been learning how to slam heavy balls down, flip tires, fling ropes, jump over them and all kinds of crazy things. It’s been so challenging and good for me.

The first day I walked in I thought, “There is no way on earth I’m going to survive.” Well, here I am lots of burpees later telling you, it is the best place I have ever exercised.

Y’all, I mean it when I say that I am in the best shape of my life.

…well, I thought I was….

I just started a new program last week, and it is HARD. Since joining BCMF, I’ve wanted so badly to try a strength training group, and I finally got the courage to do it. The basic package they offer is unlimited access to all of their HiiT classes. The next step up are Platinum groups. The Platinum group, (which I am finally trying) is much more focused on building muscle and strength. No- none of us have the goal of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Well, at least I don’t think so.) We are all just wanting the extra weight training so we can become the strongest, healthiest versions of ourselves. It is helpful because you learn how to lift heavier, while strengthening the weaker parts of your body. It’s intentionally designed to challenge you to grow stronger, while also keeping you cardiovascularly fit. Not to mention the meal plan that forces you to eat healthier. #someonesendwine #Imisscheese #andbread #jesusdrankwine

I did bench presses today for probably the second time ever in my life. I laid on the bench, hands in my gloves, feeling like, “I GOT THIS…” only to quickly realize just how freaking heavy THE BAR is. (there were five pounds on both sides- but let’s be real, if that’s “Heavy” I’ve got a long way to go.) Maria, one of my trainers gave us the instructions to our first set of exercises.

Bench press X 10

Bent over rows with a bar X 10

Plank with a dumb bell row, each arm X 10

REPEAT FIVE TIMES. Insert emoji face with flat mouth and flat eyes. -_-

Easy enough… (HAH!)

Picture me laying on the bench, hands gripped, hoisting the bar off the base and then dying. Well, okay it wasn’t that dramatic but I definitely struggled through it.

4…. 5……. 6…… the bar increasingly heavier and more wobbly….. 7…. “I caaaannnn’t put it back on….. the…” *grunting*….

Praise God Maria was there to help hoist it back where it belongs. (It clearly does not belong in my hands.) After shaking out my arms that felt like they just lifted a car, I mustered up the strength to do three more. All of which were ugly, and probably a sad demonstration of what a bench press should look like. I moved on to the next exercise and somehow managed to get through that. And on to the next and so on and so on….

My knee caps were sweating, you guys. Like- legit sweat was coming OUT OF MY KNEES. I looked like I was about to pass out, and I sure as heck felt like it. I got into the plank on the second set and used my SWEATY KNEE CAP spots as my placement guide. The sweat pooled up and stayed there like a sad little reminder of just how miserable it was going to feel….

This type of struggle continued through each set. I approached the exercises hopeful, grunting through them and with A LOT of help from my trainer and faithful partner, Amber, I completed the task.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how this relates to my walk with the Lord. He never really makes it easy on me. Just like Maria, and my other trainer Jennie, never make it easy. What’s the point in exercising my muscles if I’m only going to give up when it gets too hard or too heavy? Who walks into the gym and stops when it starts getting harder? Well, I know some folks may, but we all know that that’s not the point. The POINT of exercising is to be healthy and to get stronger. Common sense alone tells us that we won’t grow unless we push ourselves to try. Every amazing member of BCMF knows what it’s like to feel the aches in burning muscles. We all know the feeling of wanting to run out of the building when we hear “Just 10 more.” If I’m honest there was one time this morning that I looked at the open warehouse door and thought, “I could easily run out now- no one is looking.” (kidding. Or am I?) We all relate to the pain and the endurance it takes to complete a workout.

As a Christian, I think my faith is so similar. When I consider the seasons of my life that have really proven to be the hardest, I see how valuable the pain and struggle was. There were times in my life I thought the pain was too much to endure, I thought the struggle would never end. BUT! Just like the end of the workout is always guaranteed (hopefully not with death), so are the ends of the harder seasons of life (also hopefully not with death). And, if you’ve ever finished a hard workout, you know just how rewarding the pain is. I’ve never heard a gym member, at the end of class say, “I wish I didn’t do that.” Rather, we all celebrate our near death experience and understand that the momentary pain that we endured has in fact made us stronger. We all know it was worth it.

It’s weird to say, “I’m going to the gym” and then when you get there, you just sit down and watch everyone else exercise. It’s pointless. To exercise, you have to join the class, jump on the treadmill, lift the weight, sweat through the pain. It’s also weird to think our faith is just a matter of a choice you make one time. But if I’m honest I lived like that for a while. I was kind of a sideline Christian for years. I observed other people enjoying the fruit of co laboring with Christ, and I thought, “that looks too hard” or “I’m not strong enough to do that.” I came to realize that saying yes to Jesus is just the first step of growing in faith. After that it’s on to the strengthening of it. When I finally dove in and really joined Jesus in the fight for my faith, it was then, that I reaped the benefit.

I don’t know if I was really taught that as a little girl. That we had to work on our faith. I was basically just taught to follow the rules and stay in church. I wasn’t taught that I could take a hold of my faith and grow and strengthen it alongside of Jesus. Physically, we all basically understand that to get stronger, we have to try. We don’t just grow muscles overnight. No one goes to bed hoping for a six pack and wakes up to find a wash board on their belly. Same goes for our faith. We don’t just say “I have faith” and then live like we aren’t required to strengthen it. NO- we CANNOT earn our salvation. It’s free in the life and blood and resurrection of Jesus. But the faith we build into requires commitment that takes work, dedication, endurance and yes, even struggle.

To exercise my body, I hit the gym (and now I nearly die) To exercise my faith, I do things like, reading the Bible, praying, going to church. To get stronger muscles in the gym, I have to at some point decide to increase my weight, or my reps, or GOD FORBID, both. (haha) To get stronger faith, I have to at some point decide that I will go deeper and press in to learning more about God and his word. It’s just how it is.

I have been thinking ALL morning about how much our trainers are like the Lord. Well, they cuss a little more than he does- but the way he pushes us to grow and get better is something they all demonstrate. I’m not sure if they think of it that way, but for this Jesus junkie EVERYTHING relates to him. Of course he’s got me thinking about how weight lifting is similar to my faith- I mean, that’s normal, right?

As Maria was helping me do some assisted pull ups today, I thought to myself, “I don’t think I could do this if she wasn’t here to help me.” She guided my foot into the biggest stinking rubber band I’ve ever seen, and encouraged me to pull my loong, tired, kinda scrawny body up to the bar. The thick band hoisting my body weight to help. God is just like this. He is there by my side, guiding me. He often sends some kinda proverbial rubber band to help me along. He tells me to go, and I say okay. The same way Maria told me to pull up and I said, okay.

There were a few times throughout the workout that she really had to step in to help me. She pushed the weights when I couldn’t, she corrected my form when I looked more like a praying mantis than a girl doing a tricep extension, and she encouraged me that I could do just three or four more. At one point she said the words. “I’m right here, I won’t let you get hurt.”

As a woman that had just realized that she can’t bench press the bar, hearing Maria’s word of encouragement really helped me push.

God is so much our coach and our trainer. He doesn’t give us instructions and then leave us high and dry. He has favor on our lives. He tips the weights, He lines up the opportunities, He clears the paths. He whispers to us, “I’m right here, and I won’t let you get hurt.” He IS the perfect encourager. He NEVER speaks to us with a harsh tone. He always tells us, that with him we can do anything. He stands firm often behind us, making sure we don’t drop the weights. Just like Maria. He says, “Come on Shelly, you have two more in you.” And I nod back and say, “Okay, Lord.”

Y’all FAITH takes HARD WORK.

Jennie, my other trainer had us using bands on our ankles earlier in the week. We were outside in the chilly Florida sun, walking, flexing our booties, hoping for it all to end. When she would instruct us, she wouldn’t say, “Shelly take off the band and I’ll do it.” But she would put a different band around her ankles and SHOW ME. Jennie may argue- but her muscles (to me) look perfect. Her form is right on, she’s strong and quick and able. She is a shining example of strength. If I want muscles like hers, I have to do what she does, right? If I want the quads of a warrior, I better freaking squat like Jennie. If I want a back that can do a pull up without a rubber band like Maria can, I better listen to her when she tells me to keep going. (Yes. She can do unassisted pull ups. Which is pretty much amazing to anyone who understands how hard they are.)

YOU GUYS… Jesus did this for us too! His life was a demonstration for us to follow. Jesus lived the perfect life. He will go down (well up, actually) as the only human being that ever lived a perfect life. Jesus didn’t compromise while here on Earth. He didn’t say, “you know what guys, I know it life is a grind, just do whatever you can to get through it.” He didn’t say, “if you love me, you’ll follow some of my commandments.” He didn’t say, “love one another until it gets hard or uncomfortable.” He didn’t say, “this life is easy.” HE DID SAY, “In this life you WILL have troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
— John 16:33

One thing Jesus and my trainers have ONE HUNDRED PERCENT in common… Neither God or Jennie, or Maria ever let me quit. They don’t tell me to sit down. They don’t tell me to stop because it’s too hard. They don’t tell me to move aside so they can finish it for me. Sure they could bust out ten bench presses in the blink of an eye- but what good would that do me? If God always stepped in and took away every ounce of struggle, sure life would be easy… but I wouldn’t be any stronger. And I’d never really have the chance to be like Jesus. So, no, they don’t tell me to stop when it gets hard.

But they DO say:

I’ll be here to help you.

It will get easier because YOU will get stronger.

You can do it.

It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

You’re doing great.

Just one more.

Don’t give up.

God is our personal trainer, every day of our life. Free of charge and always available. He never, ever, everrrrrr tells us to stop fighting, to give in, to be complacent, to settle for less, to worry, to fear, to doubt. Like Jennie and Maria so faithfully encourage ALL of the members of their gym to keep fighting, God is telling his children the same thing. It would be really silly to join a program with trainers that have zero goals of helping you become stronger. It’s also really silly to think we worship a God that wants us to remain the same.

HE LOVES US enough to encourage us to grow. He dedicated himself to the point of death. Yes, when Jesus died in our place, he saved us from an eternity without him. But his death also promises a better life now. A life that is hard, and painful, sure. Because LIFE IS HARD a lot of the time. But the difference is, with Jesus, we grow stronger and our faith becomes a light for all to see. Sure, I could go the rest of my life without working out. I could survive without strength training. But why would I want to? Why would I stop doing something that makes me a better wife and mother? Why would I reject something that is so obviously good for me? Exercising is what keeps our bodies in shape. Spending time with Jesus and building into our faith is what keeps our spirits in shape. And one thing I know for sure, only one of those two things will live forever.

If you need strength in an area of your faith, it’s worth lifting the heavier weights and pressing in. It’s worth choosing another day with the Lord. Your life will increasingly shine the light of Christ as you work alongside of him. If you doubt he’s there, visualize my trainer standing behind me ready to catch the bar. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her voice. God is with you. And you can hear his voice. He will not let you fall beyond repair. If you feel like you’re just not strong enough, cry out for a rubber band, ask him to help you! He loves you with an everlasting love. He will always tell you to hang in there, to push past the pain and to persevere, because HE is good.

Today, I am extra sore. My muscles ache and my back hurts a little. But it’s a reminder that my trainers pushed me past my comfort zone. I am thankful for the love, guidance and commitment they have to all of us at BCMF.

A year ago, I didn’t have this blog. But I felt God say, “Shelly, I want you to lift some heavier weights. I know you have it in you.” Now? I’m writing about Him alllll the time. And why is that? Because he told me to work with him, to grow with him, and to be willing to get uncomfortable so that I can be stronger in Him. The work in a blog post is almost like a session at the gym. It’s demanding, requires concentration and sacrifice. Part of me would rather be watching an episode of American Ninja Warrior, but the better part of me said, “Okay, God, let’s do this.” It’s worth getting a little sore and uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel. The same way no one ever says, “I wish I didn’t do that workout,” I won’t say, “I wish I didn’t write that post.” Why? Because maybe just maybe it’ll help you pick up some heavier weights.

Where is God challenging you to grow with him? Trust me, if you say yes, you’ll be stronger tomorrow than you are today.

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Shelly Jata