Other than a decade(ish) out of State, we have lived our entire lives nestled somewhere among Missouri hills. Our current city of 8+ years, is the extreme. It is located on the banks of the Missouri River. It rolls every direction but flat. I LOVE our State, I love our city , and I truly love the lumpy landscape (with the exception of an icy-winter).
However, as I have walked & (slowly) cycled our city; and specifically our neighborhood these past 8 years, I have not loved the airlessness and heaving lungs that come with our landscape (not to mention sore muscles in discreet locations).
When we first moved to the Ozarks from the flatlands of eastern Arkansas, I was surprised at the challenge of hill country exercise. I was younger then and the adaptation came fairly quickly, but it did take an effort.
Our travel schedule in this current season often leads to extended periods of time away from exercise routine – which means I can find myself feeling like I am frequently “starting over”. But I recently came into encouraging information – muscle memory! While researching the subject matter, this particular statement brought a smile to my face (And a bit of a skip in my slightly breathless step): “It’s long been known that retraining muscle is easier than the first time around.” YES! Hope, good news….but here is the kicker:
Muscle memory is developed when activities are practiced over and over again.
I muttered this to myself recently as I stood at the base of what I have un-fondly tagged as “killer hill”. It is that ONE hill in my life that I have to muster the mental courage to conquer time and time again. I hate walking it, and I really, REALLY hate riding it…because it is a killer. This particular day though, I was “feeling it”. Determination overruled desire for air and – I nailed it (barely breathless too!). As I was gliding down the other side of the hill, spiritual realities began racing across my mind.
As a follower of Christ – I must devote myself to the building of spiritual muscle, even when my natural inclination is to be content with flabby mush!
Because “walking in a manner worthy of the Gospel” is hard work.
“…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Because life’s situational landscape can change in an instant, demanding an immediate response that somehow, someway, brings Glory to God.
“…preach (to herald or display the Gospel) the Word, be ready in season and out of season……..fulfill your ministry!” 2 Timothy 4:2-5
Because my sanctification is about endurance.
…let us also (just like those who have gone before us in the faith), lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12
Because there is a finish line.
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
Like every other Christ-following earth-dweller, I have faced a few spiritual “killer hills”. I will no doubt encounter a few more in the future. At times I have been inclined to stand at the base with a sense of dread while shaking my feeble head “no”. Yet, muscle memory tells me that He has scaled the hill before me and is available to accompany me on the trek of which He is already familiar. There have been a few that I have crawled up on my knees while sobbing and gasping for air…but we made it. This I have learned, once we reach the top of the hard place and begin our decent down the other side…the normal hills, bumps, and curves seem less significant. It is because He faithfully led me to that hard place.
As much as I dislike the sensation of “starting over” in physical exercise, I desperately want to avoid the experience in the spiritual. I want my spiritual muscle deep and disciplined, sturdy and strong….”wherever He leads, I’ll go”….because I trust Him.