Saturday, June 21, 2014

dO yOU eVen LIFT?!

I've been working out these last two months with a great coach. I hope I get this right: he's the athletic strength coach for all the athletes at Valdosta State University. He's really taken me under his wing to help me workout and do things as I ought. He's coached me with good form and has been there to change my perspective on how to workout. Needless to say, it has also trickled over into my spiritual life.

As an athletic strength coach at a university, students always come and go. He walks with those students during their time at the school and then they leave. No grieving or anything. They come and go. He does his job. It's up to them to keep going if they so choose to do so.

I'm leaving that town, going to a new parish to be the parochial vicar at another, and will be on my own for the time being to give myself a schedule, a routine, and to put the discipline and principles he taught me into practice. I was joking with him in a text the other day saying that he will be undergoing a grieving process as I leave. In my mind's eye, I could see him shake his head the way a coach does when focused, and in a frank manner he texted back,
I do not grive. People have always come in and out of my life...You are the one in trouble, you have to lift alone. You have to choose now.
Wow...I smiled when I read that text. True to being a coach, he has been trying to instill in me the need to have a focus; to find that determination; to get the right mindset; to find the inner drive to push when I didn't want to push; to realize that even when I thought I couldn't do more, in actuality, I was stronger than what I thought.

We had a debate about making daily decisions; whether or not we are free to make the daily decision to complete a goal; and whether or not we had any more options once we completely committed to that goal. It was a great conversation and overall we were on the same page. Ultimately from an athletic perspective, when we fully commit to something, when we have decided to give our all to a certain goal, all other things that would distract us from that goal is out the window and they are no longer options. From that moment, when we wake up and eat and work and pray and live our lives, we are driven by that goal; and the moment we begin to debate as to whether or not we will act in line with it, we have lost our goal and, truth be told, we were never in it for the long haul to begin with. We were never committed to it.

Intense, I know...

We are in this life for the long haul. There are moments in which we have great coaches in our lives that are there to help us draw closer to the Lord, and ultimately to help guide us so we can make it to heaven in holiness. Virtue, habits, right living, selflessness, charity, sacraments, prayer, denying our passions...these are just some of the things we use in the giant gym known as life. They are the intense weights, barbells, dumbbells, squat exercises, burpees, crossfit routines, breathing exercises, stretching routines, spin/biking classes, marathon training programs, eating lifestyles that are there to help us draw closer to the ultimate spiritually-athletic goal: heaven. At some point we need to ask ourselves, "am I all in?" We have to realize that we have to choose. Yes there are moments that we will have great support and friends to help us, but in the everyday moment, we seem to find ourselves alone and confronted with what we think matters most...

What will be my decision? Am I all in? What will I do to live out my Catholic faith? Living our faith with conviction takes more than just a quick fix. All these diets and "quick abs" exercises are fads and won't give you what you need unless you change your lifestyle for the long haul; when we think that just being good or just going to Mass once in a while is all we need, we won't really attain holiness goal of union with God; it may get us somewhere, but for how long? We have to find that focus, mindset, and inner drive that allows us to live for our Lord. Yes, I do want to be lift to be stronger and I don't want to let it go; this lifestyle has allowed me to put to words the deepest desire in my heart: to get to heaven. I have to let myself be driven by what I have given myself to completely at every moment of my life...and I best I can in my broken human-ness. We are all a work in progress, but at least we have given ourselves to that progress. You can't squat 200 lbs overnight. You build up to it. You deny yourself some things and work on others. Similarly, you can't expect yourself to be fully detached from material-worldly passions and possessions overnight. You have to build up to it little by little through mortification, and the sacramental and prayer life.

Fortunately, we won't be alone in this. I workout alone currently and I have to conjure up my coach yelling at me and pushing me during a routine. I have to remember the things he has said to me. In a sense, he's still with me. We will always have the Church and the Lord to guide us. All we have to do is just listen up. HE will never leave us alone.

I'm in this for the long haul. Thanks Mike. Not just for the athletic perspective, but for the ways you have strengthened my spiritual life.

What about you?
Have you allowed yourself to be driven?
Are you driven?
You in this for the long haul?