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Small Steps

About eight weeks ago, my wife broke her ankle. Not just one bone, not just two bones, but three bones. Since then she’s been through a trip to the ER, a visit to the orthopedic surgeon, surgery, being immobilized in a cast, and now finally cleared to start making contact with her foot again. It’s been an emotional time, but we’ve seen the Lord’s blessing in all of it. Including her first appointment for physical therapy. Like CrossFit coaches, Physical Therapists are also students of range of motion. It’s interesting to see the similarities in what we both do. Range of motion is the name of the game in my wife’s recovery process. At the end of her first session, they wanted her to walk with crutches. We had tried this at home a few days earlier so I knew she could do it. But something changed at the Physical Therapist’s office. My wife went from hobbling on her foot to actually walking on it. Assisted of course, but real walking. As we hopped in the car to head home, I complimented her on the steps she took and asked what she thought the difference was. Her response surprised me as she replied, “The Therapist said I needed to take small steps.”

Small steps. The genesis point for the next phase of her recovery wasn’t found in some special exercise or gadget. It was the simple reminder that in order to achieve big things, we must start small. Isn’t that the opposite of how we feel sometimes? Take muscle-ups for example. For those of you that may not know what a muscle-up is, it’s a gymnastic movement performed on the rings where you start from a dead hang position and then end in a fully locked out position where your upper body is above the rings and the rings are parallel to your hips. It’s quite impressive. I would call it a big step! Long before you ever end up locked out in the rings, you’re going to have to take some small steps. You’re going to need to start with strict pulls ups and strict dips. You’ll then need to develop the hollow and superman positions and learn to put those together in what’s known as a gymnastic kip. You’ll then need to supplement with band assisted positional work on the rings as well as kipping pull-ups on the bar. All of this will hopefully one day lead you to the muscle-up. There is no muscle-up without small steps. This is why consistency in fitness training is so important. Every workout, every rep, every drive to and from the gym is a small step. I like to tell athletes that fitness is found in the next rep – you just don’t know which one!

The journey of Spiritual Fitness is also one of small steps. It’s easy to look at someone’s ability to flourish in this world and think, “I want that too.” But discovering your purpose in this world and building the durability to handle whatever life throws at you are like muscle-ups. They’re not achievable in one step. What most athletes don’t realize is all the small steps they take in the gym are really battles in their mind. They are learning to believe new truth about who they are and what they are capable of. They slowly progress from the belief that they could never do a muscle-up to the realization that now they can. Obviously, this must be combined with daily training. You can’t simply will yourself to do it. This is where we find great overlap in Spiritual and Physical Fitness. Spiritually speaking, there are thoughts that you have about who you are and how you work that need rewiring. I call this truth exchange. Your ability to grow spiritually develops from the process of exchanging old thoughts for new ones. If you’re “not a people person” then guess what, you’ll never be one. But how lame a life lived from the perspective that people are the enemy. You’re made for community, to exist in this world to encourage and be encouraged by others. In order for that to happen, you’ll need to exchange your former truth for something like, “I’m becoming a people person,” or, “God, show me the value in the people around me.” Daily spiritual training provides the battleground for truth exchange. To live your best life is to give yourself over to the process by which God exchanges your truth for His. It’s a journey marked by small steps.

Questions for Reflection:

What’s one of your greatest accomplishments in life? What was the first step you took to get there?

What’s it like to take a step backwards? How do you come back from that?

What step is God asking you to take right now?

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