Spiritual Muscles

Everyone should be able to do at least one pull up. Or so I’ve heard. This has never been a reality for me. It’s never bothered me that much either–physical strength and muscle tone just haven’t been a part of my life. I’ve always considered myself as very middling: not UNfit, but never truly fit, and never someone who could be.

Lacking physical strength is a relatively unimportant issue… sort of. Because along with this lack of physical strength came other handicaps that were so much a part of life I didn’t even consider them. My back got easily strained in everyday activities. My calves were always tight, sometimes painfully so. If I put my baby in a carrier for more than 20 minutes my shoulders hurt badly, meaning I seldom wore her. Spiritually speaking these are not important problems, but they were still inconveniences, and ones I never even sought to change because it didn’t occur to me that I could. They were just there, a side effect of being alive.

But then, about six months ago I started a mom’s fitness class and a shocking thing happened: I got stronger. I could flex and actually tell the difference. Radical! And recently it has struck me that so many of the other aches and pains have slipped away. I am continually noticing the difference in my life now that I’ve become stronger in a way it never truly occurred to me was possible. My disbelief in my ability to have muscle strength wasn’t me being self-deprecating or defeatist: no other reality ever occurred to me. Being someone with a bad back and tense shoulders, who couldn’t carry her baby, or go for long walks without having to stretch–that was just who I was.

Except that now it isn’t.

And it struck me, what other areas in my life do I have these that’s-not-my-reality blinkers? What other ways do I not even consider improvement, because the current state of things is how it has been, is, and will always be? What impulses and situations cause me to ache and feel spiritually pained, but that I do anyway, without a thought, simply because it has always been that way? What spiritual muscles do I never flex?

And when I really take a moment to consider this question, suddenly the world opens up to reveal a whole new way of living if I can decide to work on being stronger than I have ever tried to be.

And I am able to see the many ways my life could be better.
I don’t have to be a person who is impatient and harsh when someone is a little late.
I don’t have to be someone who doesn’t ask for help.
I don’t have to be someone who hides in food.
I CAN be someone who lives in the present.
I CAN be someone who trusts that the Lord is doing His part in providing for me.
I CAN be someone who doesn’t feel entitled to a sharp tongue on those stressful occasions…

It’s so obvious when you look at them directly, and yet that’s just the problem–these responses/behaviors feel like such an integral part of me that I don’t even notice I’m doing them. They’re the permanent handicaps I carry around, not even wondering how much more easily I could move without them.

But maybe, as, for the first time in my life I begin to claim my physical body, and accept that there is strength there that I never would have believed, maybe now I can look with new eyes at the spiritual person I want to raise myself to be, and dare to strive to become that way. And, with the Lord’s help, maybe I can pull myself up.

About Tania Alden

Tania is a wife, mother, artist, and South African American (in that order). Born in the USA she spent her formative years in Westville, South Africa, only returning to America to attend Bryn Athyn College. Tania and her husband Micah now live in Bryn Athyn with their small and delightful daughter. Tania loves to share memories and discussions, especially when they are centered on South Africa, parenting, art, the movie "Gladiator," and spiritual life.

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Muscles

  1. Very inspiring! One thing that strikes me reading this, is that the “mom’s fitness” class probably started off gently (not a cross-fit-level class). I think it’s important to keep in mind that progress CAN be made by taking small steps at first. Thanks for posting!

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