It took some major sweet-talking to get my husband to make his highly favored running routine three dimensional, but I did it. We signed up for an indoor triathlon this winter, and we're now training together. I've always been wholly annoyed by articles trumpeting the importance of date nights to fire up your marriage, but now I'm going to write one. With a 100% predictability, every date we have together is highly romantic. We start out cool in the pool, turn up the heat on the bike, and get downright hot on the treadmill.
Training for a race is always good mental exercise for me, because I face enough obstacles to find myself continually fighting against the desire to quit. I can't seem to stay motivated unless I sign up for an event, putting money on the table and pride on the line. It's why I'm being forced to lure my otherwise sane friends into signing up for everything from marathons and mountain climbs to cliff dives and canyon drives. I have a "Before 60" bucket list (better known as my B.S. list), and it's important that I check it off. Or at least die trying. Got that, Girlfriends?
The physical discomfort of training is strong enough to require willful defiance from me if I'm going to resist bowing to the rule of my feelings. I give honor to those feelings with far more reverence than I care to admit, but I praise God that I'm being mentally strengthened. I'm a notorious foot-stomper, and not just when I'm angrily making a point. I also stomp my foot in willful determination when my mind is grinding its way into the gear that drives my emotions instead of the gear that's driven by them. My foot has a healthy attachment to my brain, and it's a good sign that I seem to be stomping more than usual. I am going to the gym. Stomp. I am going to get in that pool. Stomp. I am going to be happy with doing my best. Stomp, stomp, stomp.
I can't help but to think about how powerfully my physical training mirrors the spiritual exercise that is such an integral part of my pursuit of Christ. Both demand a mental engagement that has me planting my feet in defiance against my flesh and my feelings. In my desire to know Christ, it's an engagement of grace directed by the Holy Spirit that enables me to stand my ground against the lies of the enemy. I have no power within myself to resist. Those lies about my sin and shame are notorious for penetrating my heart with painful emotional darkness, but God has faithfully used both my failures and victories in the struggle to strengthen my mind with truth. I am going to the Cross. Stomp. I am fixing my eyes on Christ. Stomp. I am forgiven and I am loved. Stomp, stomp, stomp.
God has designed me in such a way that my internal struggle is intense. It's as if my mind and my emotions are in one big epic battle, both relentlessly vying for power. Not everybody experiences this kind of raw conflict, and I've had to learn not to let the struggle discourage me. If you are wired similarly, don't let your sovereign design flood your heart with false guilt. With some people, the feelings of discomfort generated by physical exercise are overshadowed by the benefits of health enough not to make it the painfully raw discipline that it is for others. That is the same spiritually. With some people, the feelings of discomfort generated by the lies of the enemy are outweighed by the benefits of truth enough not to make it the painfully raw journey that it is for others. This isn't always a matter of right or wrong, or being mature or immature. Sometimes it's simply a matter of God's sovereign strategy for our growth in grace.
Though my husband has emotions that run deep, God mercifully made him too busy being logical to spend much time noticing he even has feelings let alone endlessly fighting with them. He glides through life dutifully and beautifully without any notable fanfare or warfare. When I'm not annoyed, I'm mesmerized. He rarely needs to put his foot down, let alone stomp it. He just calmly stands his ground, Gorilla-glued by grace. I try pushing him around, but I always end up looking like those people in fat blow-up suits flying through the air as they bounce off immovable objects. So no, not everybody struggles with the same measure of mental and emotional conflict in their spiritual journey. But that's the glory of grace in a Body of diversity that sparkles with the innumerable facets of Christ's beauty.
The internal conflict I face makes it imperative that I intentionally plant my feet in humble defiance in the name of my Savior. It makes it imperative that I intentionally stand against the lies that bind me to my sin and tether me to my shame. And it makes it imperative that I intentionally challenge the accusations that chain me to the sin and suffering of others that leave them unwilling to give and forgive or unable to bear and forbear. All of this requires my humbly bowing my knee before my loving Father's throne of grace if I'm going to taste the victory that's mine in Christ. My desire to live in the joy of that victory demands that I intentionally wage war against the lies that have me looking for righteousness in myself and in others instead of resting in the righteousness that's found in Christ alone. And with the emotional darkness that so easily immobilizes me, it demands that I stomp my foot in humble defiance as I intentionally declare that the Light of the World is my hope and strength!
Standing my ground in humble defiance against the lies of the enemy involves saturating my mind with truth. Meditating on Scripture and memorizing the Word is how I do that best, but another way is listening to music that counsels my heart with the gospel and saturates my mind with the hope of resurrection power. More Than Conquerors by Rend Collective is a perfect example of the kind of song that God uses to encourage a stubborn resolve within me to claim His grace and stand my ground. I'm making its lyrics my declaration of truth as I face a new year that will surely come with its own set of lies. May these words of victory be your humble declaration of defiance, too.
Thank you, Lord, for your work of grace in my wild and unruly heart. I will NOT bow to sin or to shame. I will be defiant in Your Name!