I've been thinking (I know, you're shocked, aren't you?) over the past few days and weeks about the theme of exhaustion, endurance and encouragement. Most of it was in kind of an offhand way until I went to the Beth Moore conference with Sara . Most of my time at that event was more getting to know some of the women in the church since the Spousal Unit and I have only been in town and at our church for just about a year now and, let's face it, if you have (1) a blog descriptor that describes you as a hermit, and (2) a subject line that indicates misanthropy is an option, it might take you a bit of time to get to know folk :).
The thing that Beth said that made my brain perk up and take notice was this: "Endure the hard for the sake of the good." I've mused on or close to this topic before in earlier blog entries that talked about the coffee shop or some other things we have been through since then, but my brain started drawing some parallels to past experiences and then linking them up to current situations, moments and encounters, and...I dunno...maybe God just wanted to tap me on the shoulder and say, "Hey, think about this..."
Admittedly, my first thought when I heard Beth say that was "Yeah, but can someone tell me when the 'hard' is going to stop?" But, then again, sarcasm is my mother tongue so that thought went in and out fairly quickly 'cause it's nothing new.
What I started thinking about after my knee-jerk response faded was kinda two-pronged. One aspect was how tired I am physically, mentally, emotionally...just about any "ally" you can add. The other was about the good and bad of self-reliance and that's the one I'm gonna hit, I think.
I've been pretty self-reliant from a very young age - about the time I learned that I really could only count on me to watch out for me. On the good side of self-reliance is the ability I have to get out and get things done. On the not-so-good side is the shell I built up because I put everyone in the "can't really depend on them" category. Oh, I like people well enough but my normal modus operandi is you will get so far in a relationship/friendship with me and no farther. My ready answer to how I'm doing is "I'm fine." I don't even have to think about it. It just rolls off the tongue.
I think that is one of the reasons I was so drawn to mixed martial arts. You're loosely part of a team in that you all train together or around each other but your only real opponent is yourself. How far can you go? How much are you willing to push yourself to improve your skills? You get walloped in practice? You accept it and move on. You ignore the bloody nose and proudly point out the black and blue bruises to your teammates. Heck, I left one day with a hematoma on my shin the size of a baseball and tried to come in to train the next day. (Its name was Henry and I have pictures. It was cool :)). 'Cause when the cage door closes, it's just you and your skills against the person standing across from you.
But relying solely on yourself and your ability to endure is not necessarily a good thing. In my case, I took it past the level of "pain is weakness leaving the body" to "Hey, idiot. Pain is your body's way of telling you that you now have a permanent spinal injury. Congratulations." Go me!
I can see that same strain of self-reliance/endurance in my spiritual life. Just like in training, I get tired - really tired - but the little voice in my head says to suck it up and move on; get back to enduring. Otherwise, I feel so totally exposed. When I called Sara about potentially not going to see Beth Moore because of the SU's ill health, I suddenly found myself crying and I was absolutely mortified. I think I even apologized to her for what I felt was such an unseemly moment. Where was all my endurance? (Well, apparently snotting up the phone line but that's beside the point...:P).
And that thing I said about it just being you when the cage door closes? Not entirely true. Every fighter has what's called a "corner". Your corner generally consists of your trainer and at least one other person. They know your strengths and weakness and generally have experience of their own as well. They stand right outside the ring. Since you, as the fighter are in the middle of the action and can't really take an objective look at what's happening and are mostly relying on instinct, it's their job to call out strategy and encouragement during each round. A good fighter relies on their corner because he or she knows they have the fighter's best interests at heart.
What God reminded me of via his usual method (the clue-by-four that I've mentioned before) is that our Life Group and the friends I've made at the church are my corner. During the Beth Moore weekend, our Life Group gave the Spousal Unit and I an envelope with some gift cards in it just to cheer us up and let us know they love us. When the SU had to go in for surgery last week, they got together and picked nights to deliver dinner to us throughout the week. I had no idea about it - which is probably good because I'm sure I would have said that I was fine and I'd be able to deal with a husband recuperating from surgery and cook dinner. It was very humbling and initially almost hard to accept in a way because my mindset was such the opposite. Nobody was saying I couldn't do it; rather, they were coming alongside to offer encouragement and a little rest between rounds.
Allowing others inside, strengthening myself by relying on others is something I will have to continue to work on as it hasn't ever really been something I've been comfortable with. Yet if God has brought me these people, these friends, who am I to say no just because it isn't something within my comfort zone? So, "endure the hard for the sake of the good", yes. Nothing in there, though, said I had to endure it alone.