Friday, November 20, 2009

The Dreaded "Deck of Cards"

The dreaded “Deck of Cards.” As soon as I saw it in the trainers’ hand, I said to myself, “Why did I come to boot camp today? I wish I would have stayed home.” It was too late. I’d look like a quitter if I darted out the door and maybe even more importantly, I would have felt like one.

I attend a group class called “boot camp,” three times a week. The exercises are always varied and intense. For me to say that I enjoy it would be only a partial truth – I do not enjoy it during the time, but I am thankful for the strength and stamina that I have achieved by persevering, over time.

Ah, Yes. The “Deck of Cards” -- It is a most grueling and nearly hopeless grouping of exercises. The trainer assigns an exercise to each suit in the deck. For instance today, “hearts” were squat jumps, “diamonds” were power push-ups, “ clubs” were V-sit ups and “spades” (and I wince even thinking about them) were one- legged burpees. (What is a burpee, you may ask? – Don’t. It is hard to explain, almost impossible to do in succession, and … well, I wish they were never invented.) The trainer shuffles the deck of cards; we all get a chance to cut the deck, and then the torture begins. The first card is turned over and one does the exercise associated with that suit, the number of times that are on the card – IE: 2 of clubs is 2 V-sit ups, 9 of spades is 9 one-legged burpees – (that’s 9 on each side -- 9 x 2 = 18. Can you tell I am still reeling from the discomfort?) Once you are done with one card, the next card is immediately turned over and you are on to the next exercise for the expressed number of repetitions. And on and on it goes till 108 squat jumps. 108 power push-ups. 108 V-situps, and 216 one-legged burpees are completed. OUCH!

Thoughts like – “This is crazy!” “I’m going to pass out!” and “I’m never coming back here again!” crossed my mind, while I sweated and panted and felt my muscles ripple like waves on the ocean. However, knowing that at least 2 of the 3 things are not true (In my view, “This is crazy!” is accurate) I kept my mind focused on the finish line -- Card #52 (which was 8 one-legged burpees – that makes 16 total if you’re doing the math). The last card was eventually turned over and we were done.

Long story to share about what I thought when I drove off in my car, dripping with perspiration and exhausted, but done. Sometimes life seems like the “Dreaded Deck of Cards.” I find myself challenged by one situation after another, in rapid succession, feeling like I’m going to pass out or just quit.

The apostle Paul uses the analogy a lot of physical training in the bible, and I like that. He says, “… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus …” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Here is the reality. God, in His wisdom and mercy, does allow (for He holds the deck) for us to undergo intense training. He is training us for godliness. It is not pleasant when we experience it. It is hard. The words of Paul indicate, however, that we do have a choice as to what we can do when we participate – “let us run with perseverance … let us fix our eyes on Jesus."

I could have quit today. I’m glad I didn’t. The trainer heard me mumble the words of self-defeat that I mentioned earlier. Her response was, “You’ll be glad when you’ve completed the workout. The sense of accomplishment and the results are worth it.” So, despite intermittent complaining, I tried to persevere and to stay focused.

Dear reader, it’s hard when we are getting bombarded with trial after trial, exertion after exertion, frustration after frustration, heartache after heartache … but don’t quit! God is in control, He loves you and He uses our struggles to strengthen us and create in us stamina, as He trains us to be more like Jesus. It is difficult – sometimes even grueling -- and although Paul says run, I think there are times when we find ourselves just barely walking, but we need to keep on moving in the right direction, keeping our eyes focused on the Lord Jesus. Over time, I believe, we will be able to say, “We did it!” (Thanks to Him!) and the results will be more than worth it, for “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

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