100 Push-ups & Beyond
Updated: May 6, 2019
Push-ups! If there is ever an exercise that I down-right stink to high-heaven in, it’s push-ups! Honestly, even “girl” push-ups are a massive challenge for me. (Okay, take a breath. Relax! I KNOW that the politically correct term is actually “modified” push-ups or ‘knee” push-ups.Okay?! Just chillax a sec.)
Seriously though, I am, by nature, a physically strong person. Heck, ask me to do a full-on plank, and I can hold it ‘til the cows come home! Even my young adult kids marvel at my natural propensity for core endurance. But push-ups? Well, now...that’s an entirely different story.
How in the world I ended up at a 3-day Qi Gong (pronounced “chee gong”) conference being commanded to do 100 push-ups is beyond me. Only God, right?! After all, Qi Gong is the practice of aligning your body, breath, and mind for health, meditation, and martial arts training. I thought I had signed up to learn slow, focused, flowing (in other words...EASY) movements. For me, three full days to getting “my zen on” sounded heavenly. Which it was. However, on the final day, our Qi Gong instructor passionately began teaching how to use deep breathing and focused energy to powerfully move through challenges that felt gargantuan. So, on the morning of conference day #3, we spent over 2 hours in “experiential learning.” Ah, lucky me! Along with 250 other enlightened participants, I was invited to roll out my yoga mat and join my oh-so-wise Qi Gong Sensei in doing 100 squats, 100 leg-lifts, 100 butt bursts, and you guessed it...100 push-ups!
At some point, about halfway through this sadistic routine, when even the hairs on my arms were screaming in pain, my strapping, fit-as-a-fiddle instructor called out to this dead-as-a-doormat damsel. “Some of you are feeling intense pain in your muscles right now!” (Um, really?! Ya, think?! No sh__, Sherlock!) “What I want you to do,” he continued, “is choose to give thanks for your pain. Realize that your pain is an indicator that you’re building muscle. It’s a sign that you’re getting stronger. You’re not who you were yesterday, and you will be stronger tomorrow. BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR PAIN!”
You would have been proud of me. I controlled my initial urge to rush the stage in crazed lunacy and wack Mr. Kung-Fu upside the head with my yoga mat!! Perhaps my remarkable self-restraint was a result of knowing that somehow I resonated with the words--be grateful for your pain. Deep inside, my Spirit whispered, “Remember this, Melissa. Don’t forget. This is important.”
There are times when life hands you a plate chock-full of defeat. Yep and second helpings of hopelessness and despair are right there for the taking--serve yourself! The past couple of weeks have felt that way to me. Being overwhelmed with life and underwhelmed with God’s expressions of love can be painful. Without being overly dramatic, the truth is, at times life feels downright daunting. Between you and me, these past weeks, I’ve faced some painful challenges. Each day I wake up thinking, “Man, can it get much worse!” And yep, somehow it does. You know the feeling, I’m sure. Maybe, right now, you’re going through a similar experience. So here’s the deal. Normally, during times like these, I start praying a whole heck of a lot more. (Note to self: remember to purchase a really good pair of knee pads for future times of needing to hit the floor.) And for me, up until now, when the pain got too intense, “I whined. I moaned and complained to God. Then I grovelled shamelessly, begging Him to take away the causes of my extreme discomfort. “Puh-leease God, do something to fix my circumstances! Puh-leease, TAKE AWAY MY PAIN!”.
This morning, however, I prayed something completely different. I remembered my 100 push-ups and my Qi Gong Master’s reminder to be grateful. So, I tried it. Instead of going to my standard “Plead-With-God-Mode,” I actually prayed a prayer of gratitude. SINCERE gratitude.“Thanks God for this pain today. Thank you for the lack I’m experiencing in my life right now. Thank you for the disappointment. Thank you for the fear. Thank you for this gargantuan challenge I’m facing. Thank you for my extreme neediness. Thank you for the overwhelm. Thank you that I’m building muscle. Today, let my pain remind me that I’m getting stronger. That I’m not who I was yesterday. I will be better tomorrow because of the pain I’m experiencing today.”
You know what? That simple perspective shift was truly transformational! I instantly felt more empowered. Lighter. Held. Comforted. Peaceful. Hopeful.
Here’s one thing I know to be true--God does not waste our pain. He promises us that. When I choose to thank Him for it, things change. Perhaps most importantly, I change...profoundly. Peace sweeps over me as I stop resisting and I allow myself to surrender. Then, I also realize I have more strength to get through even the most enormous challenges. (100 push-up? Easy-peasy!) When I focus on gratitude, it creates strength to continue on.
Yep, sometimes you just have to breathe gratitude in deeply. Pain is a necessary part of building core strength. When you do “strength training” with gratitude everything changes! Try it. Experience it for yourself. And if you’re feeling the urge to smack me upside my head right now...I get it. Truly I do! But resist the urge. Breathe in gratitude instead!