OK, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about exercise and suffering. Because they go together, you know. Anyway, I was thinking that some forms of exercise have multiple purposes. For instance, walking can also serve to take you places, or show you pretty things. Sports can also be competitive (if you like that sort of thing), or social, or teach teamwork, or even be fun. Yoga can be a form of relaxation and meditation. But the barbell is a type of exercise with only one purpose. You know it. It’s that huge steel bar with the big weights on the ends. It ties you to gravity. It offers resistance. It is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to be very, very hard to lift.
So, I was thinking, life is like a gym. You go in there with a purpose: to become fit and strong, maybe feel better. There are some visible benefits to this: maybe you want to lose some excess fat, or just tone some muscles so you can look better, maybe have more energy. There are even more invisible benefits to this: getting rid of fats that clog your arteries and make your organs and muscles work less well. And there are long-term benefits as well, of having the strength and the stamina to do the things that will come up in our lives (like 3 days of comic con…ugh my feet are so tired!). So many times we go ONLY for the visible benefits, even though those are the ones that really matter the least.
Life is a lot like this gym. We go there with a purpose. Maybe we’re clutching a picture of Arnold Friberg’s Ammon thinking, ‘this is what I want to look like.’ And we do some time on the treadmill and maybe lift some dumbbells a few times, then look in the mirror and think, “why am I doing this? It’s not very fun and I don’t see any difference at all!”
Then the personal trainer comes in. His name is Jesus Christ. And he says he can help you meet the goals you set in the first place. And it’s free! Sweet, you think, I like free stuff! But then the real work begins. More time on the treadmill. More dumbbells. More resistance machines. And still at the end of the day you look at yourself and you don’t see much difference.
Then come the barbells.
Holy cow, you hate those things. You avoided them before, because you saw people do them on their own and either take on too much and get hurt, or take on too little and not see any progress. So why would anyone want to take them on? But this personal trainer, man, He is hard core. He has you doing those stupid things every single day and He is pushing you WAY beyond comfortable. You hurt. Every day you hurt. And you still look in the mirror every day and it seems it’s not making any difference. And one day, as Christ is spotting you on those cursed barbells, you say, “I don’t think I want to look like Ammon any more. Forget it. I just want some cheesecake and a nap. I don’t want to do these barbells a moment more!”
And Christ says, “Oh, you’re not going to look like Ammon when we’re done. Why would you want to look like someone else? You’re going to be better, because you are going to be the best version of you, which is exactly what the universe needs. We already have an Ammon. Now I need you.“
Because we all have trials that are just like those barbells. We see no purpose for them but the suffering. And we have seen trials destroy others who have not utilized the personal trainer we all have access to for free. And when we look at ourselves in the mirror every day, we don’t see the progress we are making, because it comes so slowly, bit by agonizing bit. And it doesn’t always match what we think we want or should be.
But if we rely on our personal trainer and His expertise in knowing how much is too much and how much is too little to give us the strength we need for things that will come up after we leave this gym, those barbells will be the biggest blessing we could ever imagine. Because it is only in the resistance that we are given strength. And with our unique strengths and abilities, we can help save the world.