I saw a facebook post the other day from a friend. It basically said, “I just realized that only a few days into Lent, I’ve broken more than two of the sacrifices I had planned on. I’m remembering again that the journey is about always getting back up.” That’s the post of someone becoming humble. That’s someone who is not going to quit.
Last summer, I started doing the Insanity workout series. That is a very intensive, 60-day workout program where you go all out for 90% of the time and you go slow for the other 10%. It’s the opposite of the other workout plans, and that’s why it’s called Insanity. Well, after the first month, I went to another village and had no place to do the workouts. So, when I returned to Boston, I started them again. Only this time, after the first few weeks, I hurt my shoulder badly playing basketball and had to stop. After I got back to Ecuador, I tried to start again, but had no place to do the exercises. Finally, in the location I’m in now, I have the time and the space. My shoulder still isn’t healed, but I decided I’d give it a go again.
So, what happens is that I put on the computer, and there are these incredibly fit 20-something year olds, all fired up to workout, bouncing around, and then it all starts with jogging. My belly is bouncing around, but I’m into the spirit of things, motivated. But I know what’s coming.
Some of the exercises I can’t quite get down yet, so I fumble through them. I take a few extra breaks. And that’s just the warmups. In the stretching exercises, I lose my balance regularly and almost collapse, bewildered that these super fit human beings can actually contort themselves into cartoon characters. Not only does my belly get in the way of contorting by body to where it – apparently – needs to be stretched, but the stretching itself taxes my muscles like a weight-training exercise. And then begins the real serious stuff, and I am taking break after break, water after water – some of the exercises I can only do one or two because I’m still catching my breath from the previous one.
But something is happening. After a week I can already tell: I am growing! Yes, on Friday I ran on an outdoor court playing soccer with about fifteen 13 year olds filled with energy and I could keep up.
You know why?
Because for all the work and the sweating and the exhaustion and the recalculating and the failing and pausing and the getting back up that I do with Insanity, there is something that I never do.
I never quit.
That’s the road to humility.
Back home in Boston, there is a Franciscan Shrine called St Anthony Shrine. Behind the altar there are the images of all the twelve apostles. When you go into the church, you see the super-fit Christians right there. The guys with their famous names, miraculous works, their heroic martyrdoms.
These are the guys that wanted to keep the children, a blind man, and a foreign woman away from Jesus. They are the guys who thought about calling down fire from heaven to wipe out a town that wouldn’t let them pass through. They fought among themselves about who was greatest at the Last Supper. Two of them wanted to be placed over everyone else. Some got angry at the woman who anointed Jesus feet, saying they could have used that money for something useful. The leader, Peter, tried to tell Jesus what to do, and they didn’t trust Jesus when they were in a storm crossing the lake, and they didn’t trust him when there were thousands of people needing to be fed from a few loaves and fish. They never understood what Jesus was saying, and much less what he was doing. And that was just the warmup and stretching! Then, they couldn’t stay awake when it was time to pray, and they all ran away when it was prime time. They paid no attention to Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead, some needed physical proof to believe he rose from the dead, and, before they got the divine help from the Holy Spirit, they were all huddled in a room … afraid.
But, they ended up changing the world.
Because for all their effort and failing and pausing and replanning and being ridiculous and getting back up that they did do, there was one thing they didn’t do:
They never quit.
They took the road to humility.
Whatever you are doing for Lent, you better be struggling and failing and pausing and replanning and getting a little frustrated and getting back up. That’s what Lent is about.
The road to humility.
“Now I begin.” (Ps 77:10)