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Refining Moments

My wife and I are big HGTV people, and we love the home makeover shows. For me, there’s something about the before and after photos that blows my mind. I’m amazed by the transformations the photos reveal. And not just homes. I love before and after photos of parents. You can see the young power couple in all their double income, no kid glory, be radically transformed, taking a back seat as the kids become the focal point. And of course I love before and after photos of fitness transformations. People who are flourishing simply exude a different air about them, and it’s exciting to capture their new-found flourishing and preserve it in photos. These are the defining moments. But what you don’t see are the moments that got them there. Whether it’s pressure filled deadlines, parents who don’t sleep for the first three months, or fighting the feeling of not wanting to get out of bed, these are the moments which can create defining moments. These are the refining moments.

No refining process can begin without pressure. Pressure is the catalyst which can start and sustain refinement. In the gym, we define pressure as intensity. And there are a number of variables which can increase the intensity of work. We can change the weight of the load. We can change the speed with which the load is moved. We can change the difficulty of the movement or increase the range of motion. Suffice it to say, when a coach wants to increase the intensity of the work, she’s got a whole arsenal of options to choose from. And while the intensity of the work is for the purpose of refining the athlete, it’s up to the athlete to see it that way.

Sometimes we allow the intensity of the work to define us instead. When we look around to see if we have the most weight on the bar or constantly refresh the digital leaderboard to see where we stand. It can define us outside the gym too. Most people probably don’t care you’re a “CrossFitter” or that your Fran time is under five minutes. And when you’re posting fitness moments to your feed for the sole purpose of “oohs” and “aahs” in the form of likes, you’ve officially become defined by your work.

It can happen in our spiritual lives as well. In fact, I believe more people actually see themselves defined by what they do in life rather than see themselves being refined by what they do. It’s too easy to put your identity into your work. And the problem with this narrative is the longer you live into it, the more challenging it becomes to rewrite. If I asked you the simple question, “Who are you,” most of you would respond with what you do. You’re a mother, a coach, a business owner, an investor, etc. But that’s not who you are. And I know that because those things could be taken away at any moment and you’d still be you.

If you really want to know who you are, start to see the load of life in a refining way. First, it will change your perspective on work, and I don’t just mean your career. When you walk in the gym, there is a prescribed load and rep scheme to create change through intensity. But when you say yes to everyone who asks because you have severe FOMO, it’s like walking into the gym and doing five reps with every piece of equipment available. Ludicrous in the gym, yet most people when asked how they’re doing in life will say “busy,” then rattle off a bunch of stuff proving their value in life. If I ever heard an athlete tell me they were “busy” during a WOD, we’d have a little sit down afterward to talk about perspective and vision. Your best life won’t be one defined by work, it will be one refined by work.

Take some time this week to reflect on the load in your life. Invite God into the process, asking Him to articulate your refining work and help you remove your defining work. The pursuit of the daily presence of God must be done with purpose and focus. If you don’t have a view of how the things in your life are changing you into the image of Jesus, it’s time to focus there. When you take the after photo with Jesus in eternity, that will no doubt be a defining moment. But both He and you will reflect together on all the refining moments along the way.

Questions for reflection:

Discuss the difference in perspective between someone who’s defined by work versus someone who’s refined by work.

Where do you see God doing a refining in you right now?

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