"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

Friday, September 2, 2011

During the Darkest Night (part 2)

One of my friends recently asked for directions so she could take a hike that I go on quite frequently. Not wanting to discourage her, I described how to get to the Claremont Wilderness Park and mentioned that the hike was challenging. Later that night she called.

“You said that hike is challenging. It’s not challenging, it’s insane! Before the halfway point, she’d turned around. After a bit of teasing and a lot of laughter, I confessed that I couldn’t have done that hike at her age either. But over the past twenty years, I’ve increased my stamina quite a bit. I’ve also discovered that the harder I work out, the harder I can work out, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It’s almost a snowball effect.

For over a decade, I’ve been going to a step aerobics class. At first my attendance was sporadic. Now it's more consistent, about three times a week. This past year I increased my bench height from one step to two. Not only that, but I’m discovering ways to maximize the impact of my movements far beyond what I’ve ever done before.

For me, the trick to keeping up is concentration. Whether it’s a hike or the aerobics class, my biggest challenge isn’t the physicality—it’s disciplining my mind to pay attention to my instructor so my body takes the right steps at the right time. The more I focus only on what Roz is saying, the better I function and the more satisfying the exercise becomes. Even more, the strengthening gives me great pleasure as it spills out into the rest of my life.

Disciplining myself spiritually to pay attention to my Beloved—the One who made me—requires that same type of commitment and concentration, especially when trying to overcome my fears. Over the past thirty years, instead of focusing on the circumstances, I've been learning to lift my eyes to the One who made me and  pay attention to His Living Voice through the words of His book, the Bible. His instructions are as relevant today as when He spoke them through the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 41, verse 10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Focus on my Beloved, the One who made me, lifts me above the circumstances and keeps me from the “what ifs,” which can become self-fulfilling prophecy. “What if she gets mad at me? What if I mess up? What if I can’t do it? What if I lose [fill in the blank]?” Instead my Beloved says to me in verse 9: "You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.”

Being the Creator’s servant in every circumstance gives even the most difficult times meaning and purpose. Corrie ten Boom found that to be true even in a concentration camp. More on that in Monday’s post.

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