benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Month: May, 2014

A LEG TO STAND ON

I walked past the copy of Michelangelo’s David every day in the Piazza Signoria when I studied abroad in Florence. And then misguidedly did a daily routine of one hundred double crunches and one hundred pushups when I got back to the apartment because I so badly believed that if I had a body JUST like that it would definitely and FOR SURE secure the promise of true love.

 

So it greatly disturbed me this week to learn that the real David on display at the Accademia Gallery is in danger of collapsing under its own weight. Over many years, the cantilevered (or contrapposto) pose of the figure has caused growing hairline cracks in the right ankle of the sculpture, thus compromising the entire stability of this masterpiece.

 

Similarly, ankles are often overlooked in training even though they are one of the most injury prone parts of the body. Weak ankles will greatly disadvantage an athlete the full potential of power and speed.

 

Such self-inflicted flaws make it clear that only “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us (because) no power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.” Romans (8:37-39) It is the great magnitude of an eternal promise that we can truly stand on for all time.

 

I pull out an old Art History textbook to find David just as youthful, beautiful and strong, still at the moment right before battle and tensely contemplating the arduous task he is about to undertake.

 

But he now also knows that bad leg or not, whether skinny and pretty or big and beefy, yes, Jesus loves him. With a 2B pencil I lightly draw a heart around my David. Then scribbling over important pink and purple highlighted notes from so long ago, I write it down: little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.

 

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SQUEEZE IT

I am laughing uncontrollably while trying to balance feet on a ball, shoulders on the mat below, weights in hand locked directly above the chest, and glutes suspended in mid-air. It’s the starting point of a compound movement involving an elevated bridge with tricep skull crushers. The only other imperative instruction we receive in the Total Body class is: “Squeeze your butts. If you don’t do it, then nobody else is going to do it for you.”

 

During the next couple of days in the midst of soreness, one particular way in which God’s grace lifts me begins to resonate. When I am weak and pained, He always connects the will to be strong, the way to refocus and the hope to comfort my heart. No matter how complicated life gets, I know that I am held high above. My entire being may be engaged in resistance but as long as I keep giving thanks, He is continuously and “surely … my help, the one who sustains me.” (Psalm 54:4)

 

Whether I have consciously called out in despair or hidden my anxieties in fear, David’s eloquent and faithful verses for times of trouble remind me that where my ass is concerned, it is God’s business. And he’s not going to set it down either. And it is going to get handled.

 

It’s nice to know that someone else IS doing the squeezing.

NATURE | NURTURE

“I just wanted you to know that I didn’t always look so very terrible.”

 

I look up from playing and it surprises me. The woman quietly saying this is undeniably beautiful. With fine aristocratic features, she possesses a distinguished elegance to her entire comportment. She has an easy understated approach to her make-up and hair. She also understands that pale porcelain skin, straight shoulder-length flaxen blonde and piercing blue eyes only require a tasteful mink stole and a strand of simple pearls to complement. She is alone.

 

“I have been sick for a very long time and this is the first night I’ve gone out in two years.”

 

I don’t ask for details. I don’t need to know the specifics. I tell her she looks wonderful. And that I hope the evening was perfect. She tips me a twenty and I thank her for listening. She nods slowly and walks out of the restaurant. Not before glancing back one last time.

 

As I transition from Night and Day into I’ve Got You Under My Skin, I am deeply moved by a stranger’s need to share a very intimate insecurity. Had she said nothing at all, my impression of her would not have been any different.

 

We are all very much aware that we need to have compassion for others. To bear each other’s burdens. To love others as ourselves. To forgive one another. But this chance encounter made me wonder how often I practice these acts of generosity for myself and on myself.

 

Remarkably, I am my own worst enemy, the harshest critic if my failings and the most deprecating of my abilities.

 

The final song in my Cole Porter medley is I Get a Kick Out of You. And I realize that although naturally imperfect, I am perfectly made through the nurture of a greater hand. My thrills and validation do not have to come from external forces like champagne, cocaine or planes. I can stand before myself in the higher internal spirit of patience and comfort, well-equipped by grace to serve my own emotional needs, in order to BE of better service.

 

I just wanted you to know that I didn’t always feel so very secure. I had been ashamed of who I was for a very long time and this is the first day of many more that I will continue to go out with joy, love and peace.