In 2007 I lived in Dallas, had a really great (and great-paying) job and for the first time in my life got a personal trainer. It was a great experience and over the course of about 7 months of rigorous, targeted training and focused nutrition, I dropped about 55 lbs and felt incredible. (more on all that in a future post) I don’t think I had ever been more focused or dedicated on achieving something in my life. I worked my butt off (literally) and learned a valuable spiritual lesson in the process.
When I first started working out with Sean (my trainer), there were quite a few pretty difficult, turbulent and down-right “what the @#&% are you doing to me!?!” moments. I had a gym membership that I used every so often, but didn’t really have any focus, direction or general clue how to go about targeting my efforts to achieve specific results. Sean helped me change all that.
Early on in our sessions, he would have me doing some CRAZY cardio exercises that made me want to thrash him with a resistance band. It wasn’t just cardio. It was cardio on crack. He would have me do some crazy aggressive exercise, getting my heart rate up in thirty second to one minute increments, then stop, rest for 30 seconds to one minute, then do it again, and again and again and again. I remember the first time we did this, my body was rebelling and I asked him what this was supposed to accomplish. Actually, I’m sure it didn’t sound nearly that eloquent. It was probably more like, “WHAT… *GASP GASP GASP*… ARE… *GASP WHEEZE GASP WHEEZE*… YOU… *WHEEZE WHEEZE*… DOING… *GASP GASP DRY HEAVE*… TO ME?!?!?”
I will never forget what he told me next.
“I’m teaching your heart to recover,” he said.
He explained this would “shock” my heart: spike my heart rate and stop just as my heart rate peaked, allow it to return to a good resting zone, then return to the violent cardio aggression. The purpose of this was to allow my heart to build up an endurance to the cardio assault, enable it to recover quicker and empower it to operate more efficiently and get ready for the next round. Sean knew my body weight, the limits of where he could push my heart rate and when to stop me to recover and repeat the process again.
Early on, it took a long time for my heart rate to recover to a good resting zone. However, as the weeks and months went by, the cardio segments got longer and the rest periods got shorter as my heart gradually began to recover quicker and quicker.
I have never forgotten that.
Looking back over the past several years of my life, and particularly the past year, I can see a distinct pattern. I’ve experienced cycles of the “spiking” heart rate of uncertainty and transition followed by resting periods of peace and stability. My life has been marked by the hand of God, the”great trainer”, who has always known exactly when to stop the action just before my heart peaked, and allowed me just enough time to recover, only to start again. From where I stand at this very moment of my life, I have absolutely no idea what is next or even what the next 24 hours will hold for me. However, the last few weeks and months have shown me that with each season that my heart has been “shocked”, I find myself bouncing back and recovering quicker than before. On several levels, my heart should be pounding right now, but it’s not.
I had one such instance a couple days ago when my heart was tested, and my reaction taught me a lot about what this journey I’ve been on. The more my heart learns to anchor its hope and identity exclusively in the cross, the quicker it recovers and keeps moving, ready for the next spike. The more I have learned to trust the trainer to teach my heart to recover, the more I see the results in how my heart responds to the spikes.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall notwant. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
In Psalm 23, David said of the Lord, “He restores my soul.” The Message translation says “you let me catch my breath.”
I know what he means.
It’s not Psalm 23, but scribbled somewhere on the pages of my life are the words:
“I will bless the Lord, my trainer. He teaches my heart to recover.”
What practical life lessons have you learned that you’ve been able to apply to your faith life?