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Rise to the Occasion

Have you ever taken on a really big physical challenge in your life? Something you honestly weren’t sure you could do. I remember the first time I decided to run a marathon. I think it was right after I finished a 5k. Isn’t that how it always is, you do something small and immediately think, “Well if I could do this, surely I can do that!” For some of you, maybe it’s one of those crazy Spartan adventure style races. Or it could just be a really challenging Hero WOD like Murph. As I was reflecting on my decision to run the marathon, I was struck by the phrase “rise to the occasion.” Certainly, something we’ve all heard, thought, or even told someone before, but is that really the case? Could I have just walked out the door the next day and “risen” to the moment of a marathon? For me, the answer would have quickly been no. Why? I think a Navy SEAL quote encapsulates it best – “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training.”

Sink to the level of your training? That doesn’t quite have the Hallmark card stopping power of rise to the occasion. Yet it’s so true. It was training I needed to complete a marathon. And yes, I could have gone out the next day and “run” a marathon, by which I could have run, jogged, and ultimately walked most of the 26.2 miles. But think about it, that’s exactly what the Navy SEAL is trying to say. I’m not rising to any occasion. I’m sinking to the level of my training. In other words, if I don’t train, I won’t rise. This is consistent with the CrossFit methodology of Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. Athletes who train consistently with foundational mechanics will be able to move larger loads longer distances. The “sink,” if you will, really is no sink at all because their training is sufficient for the task. In other words, their training has risen them to the occasion.

Life is the same way. I’ve seen good friends of mine respond completely different to similar situations. Like divorce, for example. Ending a marriage is an extremely difficult life event. I’ve had some friends completely lose it, isolating themselves, experiencing intense anxiety and depression which they medicated by either Netflix, alcohol, social media, or a combination. I’ve had other friends who embraced friendships, who talked about their struggles, who asked for help, who owned their actions in the failed marriage and forgave their former spouse for theirs. On the surface, it may look like one rose to the occasion and the other didn’t, but I believe it was based on the strength of their character. Certain character strengths rise and fall based on the situation. Psychologists call them phasic strengths. In an article on the power of phasic strengths, Dr. Ryan Niemiec shares research indicating phasic strengths such as bravery, forgiveness, hope, leadership, and self-regulation may only show up strongly in a person’s life when the situation calls for it.

Part of Spiritual Fitness is training these character strengths. As God moves into the center of your life, He becomes the source of your bravery, forgiveness, hope, leadership, and self-regulation. Resiliency in life isn’t rising to the occasion, it’s sinking to the level of your Spiritual Fitness, which ultimately originates from your relationship with God. I’m challenging you to increase the quality time you spend with God. Really remove all the outside distractions so you can focus on the moment. As you do ask yourself this question – Where is something other than God the center of my life? Bring your answers to God and offer them in surrender. This is part of spiritual training. As your great days and your difficult days start to feel more alike than apart, recognize you are not rising to the occasion. You’re realizing the results of a life with God at the center and in control, and your faith in Him has ultimately risen you to the occasion.

Questions for reflection:

Can you think of a moment in your life where others may have thought you rose to the occasion, but it was really the result of your physical and/or spiritual training?

Are there things that happen which lead you to put something other than God in the center of your life? If so, what are, or were they?

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