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Big Shoulders

Spiritual Training Cycle: Surrender (wk. 8/13)

When I started CrossFit in 2013, I was completely new to the sport as a whole. After a workout one day, I overheard a few athletes talking about something they referred to as “The Open.” The conversation revolved around some guy named Rich Froning and whether he would win both “The Open” and “The Games.” I tell you, the language of CrossFit. It’s like a whole other world. As I watched Froning not only win “The Games,” but dominate the field, I was curious to know more about him. A documentary about him was released a few years later, and in it, Rich told the story of how his life changed when he became active in his faith. I thought that was so cool because my life was doing the same. I’ll never forget one of the commentators on the documentary talking about Froning’s attitude regarding workouts. He described him as, “compliant.” No matter the workout, Rich’s demeanor never changed. The commentator remarked that Rich had the ability to handle everything with ease. My dad had a term for that – big shoulders.

When it comes to physical fitness, shoulders are key. I laugh when new athletes in our gym talk about how we do “shoulders” all the time. Why wouldn’t we? They are part of almost every upper body movement imaginable. The shoulder muscles are responsible for maintaining the widest range of motion of any joint in the body. If you want to move large loads long distances, the training you do will develop some big shoulders. I don’t mean big in terms of physique, like you might see on a bodybuilder. I mean in terms of strength. From kettlebell swings to wall balls, if an object is connected to your body and in motion, the shoulders are carrying load.

But my dad didn’t mean big shoulders in the physical sense. He was referring to people who could make the stresses of life look easy. Have you ever known anyone like this? I have a friend who went through an incredibly difficult time, hit by two major life events that would have tanked anyone. Yet he carried these new burdens well. And he still wanted to know how I was doing. I would describe him as incredibly resilient. But the key to his resiliency wasn’t his ability to bear more, it was his ability to lay it down.

To live a spiritually fit life, you need to learn to lay burdens at the feet of Jesus. Your struggles, your fears, your anxiety, and all the other things weighing you down don’t prove how big your shoulders are. In fact, they will do quite the opposite. And let me tell you why this skill is essential to feeling connected to God – because God wants your burdens. He has the biggest shoulders! Two things will happen when you start to live life this way. First, you’ll feel more peace than you have before. You’ll realize this is how it was designed to be. And second, other people will notice, and start to bring you their burdens. Not for you to carry, but for you to help lay them down.

The technical term for this is intercede, which means to intervene on behalf of another. From prayers to fasting to generosity to compassion, there are a number of practical ways to intercede. When you go before God with someone else’s needs, it reminds you how blessed you are and what a blessing it is to put others before yourself. I don’t think people who handle difficulty well have big shoulders. I think they’ve learned to rely God and let Him carry their load.

Questions for Reflection:

Can you think of someone in your life who has big shoulders? In other words, they can bear the weight of other people’s needs and struggles with ease. What do you think makes them able to do that?

Does following Jesus obligate us to intercede for others? What does that look like in your own life?

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