This past Sunday I completed my first ever racing event–a triathlon. Lest you be unduly impressed, it was not a marathon type event. It was indoors and included a 15 minute swim, a 20 minute ride on a stationary bike, and a 20 minute run. Even so, I haven’t participated in anything like this before. In fact, the thought of being in the dust of everyone else in the race was too discouraging. But since this was timed on stationary equipment I decided I could do it, and I am so glad that I did.
We live in a very comfortable culture. If it is cold, we stay in our heated homes. If it is too hot or too humid we turn on our air conditioners. And all too often if something is too hard we don’t do it or we pay someone else to do it for us. We don’t like to be uncomfortable-physically, mentally, or emotionally–and we tend to avoid it when we can. But I discovered on Sunday there is something tremendously encouraging about pushing myself as hard as I can (and surviving). I can’t say as I was participating that it was fun, but when I went back to run a couple of days later, what I had thought was hard before didn’t seem so difficult and what was sometimes drudgery really was more enjoyable than before and I found myself wanting to go farther and faster than I was used to doing.
Good or bad, we live by habit. I see this very much in my children as well as myself. If we are used to giving and practicing generosity, it is easy to give. If we are used to saying encouraging things to others, it is easy to freely give sincere compliments. On the other side, if we usually respond with impatience and anger, the more that becomes our natural response. So as I think on the benefits of pushing myself out of what is comfortable physically, and even pushing myself to the limit, how much greater the benefit of doing this in other areas of life. In the good habits, to push my comfortable limits further and make it easier to be free to do good. And in the bad, to deliberately not practice these things and replace them with good habits, so when I react by habit, there is a pleasing result.
These aren’t new thoughts. Galatians 5: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.