I don’t know about you, but in my house, we watch a lot of home improvement shows. I especially love when they take old houses and restore them. Now you may think the whole trend began with people like Chip and Joanna Gaines on the show Fixer Upper, but did you know home improvement shows have been around since 1979? That’s right, the very first home improvement show, This Old House, made its debut in 1979 starring none other than Bob Villa. There’s been quite an evolution over the last four decades. Homeowners used to favor compartment style homes, with interior walls to divide spaces such as the living room, dining room, and kitchen. That’s all over now. Turn on any home improvement or real estate show and I’ll bet within sixty seconds you hear the words, “open concept.” Today the most popular design is one big huge open room with sight lines from the front door through the living room into the kitchen and out the backyard. Open concept. In order to achieve this look with older homes, builders have to knock down as many interior walls as they can. However, there are a group of walls that serve a greater purpose and cannot be knocked down without risking a collapse of the entire home. These are the load bearing walls.
As a coach, I love the term load bearing. I think about a barbell bending across the neck of an athlete as they support two or three times their body weight. I think about a heavy set of dumbbells testing the grip strength of an athlete trying to carry them a few hundred meters. Physical fitness is about learning to bear load. Just like a house has load bearing walls, we have load bearing muscles. All muscles can bear load, but there are some primary muscles in the human body doing the majority of the work. The hamstrings, quads, glutes, delts, and lats all come to mind. Think of them as the primary support structure. A quality weightlifting program will include consistent training focused on your primary support structure. We do this in CrossFit through squats, overhead presses, and floor lifts. As athletes strengthen their primary muscles, they are able to bear more load. What this requires from a practical standpoint is patience and discipline. You must consistently immerse yourself in a quality training program and trust the process.
Patience and discipline are the hallmarks of building spiritual fitness as well. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that life can be hard. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious or unsure, you’ve no doubt experienced the “load” of life. The question you need to ask is what’s your load bearing support structure for life? All of us have an answer, you just may not have considered the question before. For most people, the default support structure for hard times is themselves. Simply put, they believe they can power through and handle it on their own. Maybe you can relate. I know I can. For much of my adult life this is how I dealt with difficulty. From job loss to divorce to death to major financial struggles, I kept it tight to the vest convinced I could handle it by myself. Instead of crushing my body, it crushed my soul. I had no real foundation not only for handling life but for actually thriving in it despite the difficulty. You would have never known from the outside. I had what we call in the gym “show muscles.” I had a big income, a fancy European car, a great home, expensive hobbies, from the outside I looked like I had it all together. But on the inside, I was caving in. The load would eventually become too great to bear and I would find myself in yet another valley, disappointed for failing.
Then one day I finally realized God had a better plan for my life. This wasn’t about trying to figure out how to do it myself, it was about starting to put my faith into the belief that alone I could never do it. I started some new habits, like reading the Bible, serving in my community, and connecting with other people on the same journey as me. Over time, God rebuilt the load bearing support structure for my life. He showed me how to have joy despite pain. He taught me the value of deep friendships and authenticity. Now when life gets tough, which it still does by the way, my soul isn’t crushed anymore. Just like the barbell bending over the neck or the heavy set of dumbbells in the hands, I embrace the load of life because I no longer bear it the way I used to.
Questions for Reflection:
What’s your load bearing support structure for life? Do you have more than one?
Why do most people think the best way to handle life is on their own?