The last exercise I do when I lift weights is bicep curls.
For those of you who have been summering with the Amish and don’t know what bicep curls are, they’re nothing more than grabbing two dumbbells, letting the weight drop towards the ground, and then lifting them up to your chest again.
When I lift, I usually do 5 sets of bicep curls, 12 repetitions each, but on the last set I try to lift as many as I can to reach what weightlifters call “total failure.”
The point at which I reach total failure on the last set and can’t do anymore is, not coincidentally, around 12 reps.
At a recent workout, as I approached my last set of bicep curls I wondered, “How many could I lift if I felt my wife’s life was at stake?”
I imagined for a brief second that she was being held captive like in the last scene of the movie Taken (or was it Taken 2, or Taken 3? Or 8?) and the ransom for her return was doing 20 bicep curls.
Not surprisingly, I easily did 20 reps.
As I came upon 20 reps I thought, “How many could I lift if I felt the lives of all three of my daughters AND Lisa were at stake? Could I lift 30?”
To my utter shock, I kept lifting. And grunting. And shaking. And gyrating.
Until I literally couldn’t lift the weights to my chest one more time.
I just let them drop to my sides.
Total reps? 39.
At no point in the last year did I ever do more than 12-13 bicep curls in the final set.
So why was this time different?
An Honest Question
Can I share with you two things I learned from that experience?
- I don’t need protein shakes. I just need to watch more Liam Neeson movies.
- I am capable of enduring way more pain and discomfort than I ever thought possible, provided I have a reason to do so.
The more I’ve thought about this the more it has caused me to reflect upon how LOW I’ve set the bar over the years for people in the church I serve.
In my mind, I’ve often caught myself thinking that if I push people too hard on sacrificing for and living out the mission of Jesus that some would simply leave.
Looking at our church community through the hindsight of 18 years, my biggest fear now is not that some have left over time – not because I’ve made things too hard – but because I’ve made things too easy.
In his book Alternative To Futility, the great spiritual writer Elton Trueblood wrote,
“Many have refused to join the Church, not because the Church has demanded too much, but because it has demanded too little. Their criticism is not that the Church is too different from the world, but that it is too much like the world. The humiliating truth is that no Christian fellowship has ever truly challenged them.”
– Elton Trueblood, Alternative To Futility (USA: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 112-113.
The Christians I know want more discomfort, not less.
Spiritually speaking, it’s as if they’ve been only doing 12 reps in their spiritual walk because that’s the bar I’ve set for them.
But they’re capable of actually doing 39 reps.
They just need (and want) to hear the call of Jesus to “lose their life” (Mt. 16:25) without me filtering it to make it more palatable.
The fact is the Christians I rub shoulders with both at CCV and around the country don’t want to help homeless people. They want to help end homelessness.
They don’t want to give needy people leftover canned goods in their pantries. They want to blow up the system that created 2,500,000 homeless children in the United States alone.
So I’m done with the ridiculously convenient pitches for following Jesus.
You don’t want them anymore. The people I serve don’t want them anymore. No Christian I know anywhere wants them anymore.
Most important, I’ve grown ashamed of giving them.
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