Thursday, May 23, 2013

Do the Hard Thing

Strive to choose not that which is easiest, but that which is most difficult. Do not deprive your soul of the agility which it needs to mount up to God. - St. John of the Cross

There is no substitute for hard work. -Thomas Edison

My friend Becky's post recently in her new series Marriage Myths, got my wheels turning. Her Marriage Myth #1 is that marriage is easy. If you are married, you know that marriage is not easy. Not by a long shot! Does that mean that marriage isn't fun? No. By admitting that marriage is hard, does that mean our marriages are failing? Of course not.

Somehow we have gotten a bit lost in our thinking. We have equated right and good choices with smooth, easy, obstacle free paths. We have equated wrong choices with pain and discomfort and having to work hard.

There is a quote, "nothing good comes easy." I'd almost have to agree 100% with that. The exception being my recipes. They are all good, and most of them are easy. But, other than that...

Why is it that as soon as things get hard we re-evaluate our path, and often give up? 

Weight loss and fitness are both hard. We try to short circuit the difficulty by following fad diets and 3-step plans. But, the fact of the matter is, if you want to lose weight and keep it off you have to change the way you think, and the way you eat, and the way you move-forever. You have to make permanent lifestyle changes. And that is hard. 

It is hard to keep moving while feeling your muscles burn and ache. It is hard to give up hours every week. It is hard.

But, you want to know what the hardest part of weight loss and fitness is? It's when you have made the positive changes (increased exercise, decreases calorie intake, drinking water, good sleep) and there is no measurable change. It is hard to keep going and not give up. It is hard when the scale plateaus and the inches don't budge. It is hard to stay on track. 

E.M. Gray puts it this way..."the successful person has the habit of doing things failures don't like to do."

Fitness inevitably pays off. You will get over the plateau. You will get stronger. You will be healthier. You will realize you are capable of going farther and doing more than you ever thought possible. 

What other hard things are there in life? Things we mistakenly feel should be easy?

How about birth? Whether you are on your first, or subsequent-it is hard. For the first, you don't realize how hard it is going to be. And for the second (and maybe more) you feel that it can't possibly be as hard as you remember it-plus you survived once...

Labor is called labor because it is hard work. No matter how much you may want to, you can't give up mid-stream. You have to see the birthing process through to the finish. It is hard, but the reward is amazing. The reward of that tiny, squalling baby, tucked up on your chest moments after birth. Yes-it is hard and painful. But worth completing.

And, let me tell you, birth is just the opening act for the difficult path of parenting. Parenting is hard work. It takes fortitude and patience. It takes wisdom that we don't have. But, that certainly doesn't mean we aren't supposed to be parents. It doesn't mean we can return the product because it isn't satisfactory. We have to keep on.

Being part of a community is hard. We tend to focus on the positives of community. But there are negatives too. Letting people see yourself-warts and all. Differences of personalities. Difference of goals. Differences of life seasons. A community comprised of sinners. That makes community hard to pursue sometimes. But, we need to. We need to love on people and invest in people.

New is hard. It is much easier to stay in our comfort zone. To not reach higher, and to not be stretched. Always in acquiring a new skill you have the initial enthusiasm, then the plateaus of "is it worth it?" and then comes the results. Be it getting a degree or learning how to blog or cook or keep house. Setting up a new house. Change is not easy.

Being in a holding pattern is no easier than change. Stuck between who you were and who you one to be. Waiting for the new job, or a life partner, or a baby. Waiting on God's perfect timing. Refusing to manipulate circumstances, or run ahead, or wallow. This is hard.

Life generally is not easy. The rough and hard paths, the storms, are our opportunities to throw ourselves on God's mercy. To take Him up on His promises of wisdom (James 1:5) and grace to help (Hebrews 4:16). It is the opportunity for God's strength to be manifest in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:13)

Where is your path currently hard? How have you glimpsed the benefits of the rough path?