I Can Do Hard Things

So back in January, I took on a fitness challenge with a group of strangers on the internet. There was about a dozen of us in this group all doing the exact same workouts everyday, checking in daily, and encouraging one another. We became each other’s friends and cheerleaders over the course of 80 days. 

The challenge, aptly named “80 Day Obsession” just wrapped up a few weeks ago. I’ve been mulling over my revelations, takeaways, and results and trying to put into words exactly what I have experienced in the process. 

I obviously have a before and after physically…and please know that sharing these pictures makes me want to crawl into a hole forevs. But I was challenged to share, number 1. And number 2, I want to do things that make me uncomfortable, even when I don’t want to do things that make me uncomfortable (which is always). Makes total sense right? Right. And you may remember it’s part of my challenge to myself for my word of the year, Out Loud, which I blogged about here. (i have like approx one million feelings about this which would make for a super extra blog so I’m going to not qualify this against all temptation to do so and just leave it right here…)

(L before, R after)

I’m down 2.5 lbs and 5.5 inches, from this challenge…about double that since last summer but I can’t bring myself to share that before picture today. Let’s just move on.

I think my biggest takeaway from this 80 day journey is the huge increase in my capacity. I have physically done things I never thought I was capable of. I am stronger than I’ve ever been. More disciplined than I’ve ever been. More self aware. More tenacious.

With every rep of every push-up, shoulder press, mule frog, burpee, or half. Turkish. getups. I have seen my walls pass behind me instead of stopping when I meet them.

While I started out with one of my goals being to see my abs for the first time (and I do!) The biggest change really is in my mindset. That became my WHY in Phase 3. I get it now. That really is the point.

I have become completely over my own bs. I’m tired of my excuses. I am completely unimpressed with myself. It’s an amazing place to find yourself. Instead of hitting a wall physically, mentally, emotionally, vocationally, that would have normally made me stop and whine and get frustrated. I now see those walls as challenges and opportunities to get stronger. I realize that just how the change happens in my body only when it burns, it also only happens in my life when I do the hard things in spite of the “burn.”

But this is where motivational quotes lose me. You know the ones… “push past the pain and ignore the voice telling you that you can’t.” I actually do agree in part. But HOW we do this is a different story. 

I am a high feeler. When I bulldoze over my feelings, shaming them for showing up and making me weak or slow or handicapped, just for the sake of getting to a destination, I have already lost. 

I am finally learning that I can’t push past my feelings on the alter of achievement. I can’t grind super hard and hustle til I reach a certain point of mythological ease and THEN enjoy the fruits of my labor. Because I trampled on my emotions back at that earlier point of contention, they are still lying back there, half dead, hoping I come back for them. They aren’t at the finish line helping me enjoy something. They are long gone. Because I ignored them when they were flagging me down, warning me of something, sharing a part of me I didn’t see. 

I have to embrace the feelings I tend to dislike. The negative ones. The ones that feel unqualified, empty, sad, overlooked, unseen, fraudulent. Feeling those is clearly unpleasant and usually means feeling lost in a sea you can’t swim out of for a little bit, no land in sight. But the actual process of feeling the unpleasant things and not escaping them, IS the means to the end. It IS the binoculars to see the shore. Feeling the weight of my emotions through transparency in Jesus gets me unstuck. It gives me perspective, not denial. I’ve never fully overcome a struggle by denying my darkness. It always comes back. Which I now see as the kindness of God. 

Processing emotions in a healthy way is paramount. Go read “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero and then check back in. But we aren’t told to deny this stuff. Jesus FELT THINGS. He cried blood, he wept over death, he was grieved time and again. He didn’t see those feelings as junk to get rid of, but he walked through them. This used to terrify me. But I’m now seeing that processing them is all about “the joy set before me.” On the other side of the burn, is the freedom. The good stuff on the other side is better than that hard part of walking through fire. 

Lately, when a negative emotion or thought comes up, I’ve become more conditioned to acknowledge it, thank it for coming to visit me, and then slowing the tape to see why exactly it’s there and what that might mean. It is a freeing thing to acknowledge the good bad and ugly in you without shame or avoidance. It feels weird. It feels like growth.

So back to those walls. The challenges. The hard things or obstacles we encounter. Those things used to make me stop and get frustrated. Maybe over a lack of resources. Maybe over a lack of gifting. But now I see those walls as challenges, as opportunities to get stronger. And that can change my whole day. My whole life, y’all. 

I need to remember that I can knock down the walls I want to sit down in front of. I won’t knock down my feelings. The Apostle Paul took pleasure in his weaknesses, because he saw the strength that they could produce…

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT

Paul doesn’t say “when I am weak HE is strong” but “I AM STRONG” because he is sharing in the sufferings of Jesus.

Sitting down in self pity takes away my opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ. He works in me when I do hard things. Things that challenge my weakness. And THEN I am strong. And sharing with him in the tiniest measure allows me this incredible gift of intimacy with my God. What a privilege!!!

See, Jesus did it ALL FIRST.

Talk about challenging yourself and doing hard things and growing as a result…the Bible says Jesus GREW in favor with God and man. The fact that God himself identified with us in that way is incomprehensible. Think about this… Jesus literally asked God to NOT send him to the cross. But he went willingly anyway. He saw the wall and pushed through it, but he felt the weight nonetheless.

I think it’s easy to assume you should grow into a place where hard things aren’t hard anymore and fear is never in the equation and you arrive at a level of mastery where you deserve the good stuff.

Make no mistake God wants to give us the good stuff. But do we ever get to that point of deserving? No. That’s entitlement. Staying challenged keeps us humble, hungry, and always growing into maturity.

Who is more mature than the freaking son of God??? Not me. How revelational it is to me that Jesus stayed uncomfortable all the way to the cross. He cried tears of blood and asked for a way out.

He felt all the uncomfortable feelings, brought them to his Father, saw the harvest of resurrection to come, and followed through in the darkest night of the soul. 

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2

For the record, I kinda love being a strong woman. I’m in the best shape of my life. I worked hard for these muscles and I think I will keep them, thankyouverymuch. I may never post another workout selfie again before I meet my maker, but as much as I want to basically never interact with humans again after sharing this, I’m mad proud of myself. 

I can do hard things. You can too.