Sunday, December 12, 2010
Know Your Limits
Guard your salvation with all you have. Know when too much is too much. In the words of Saint John Climacus (John of The Ladder of Divine Ascent): "It is a good thing to admire the labors of holy men; to imitate them procures salvation. But it is unreasonable and impossible to wish to imitate, on a sudden whim, every aspect of the way the live". This cautionary note by this beloved church elder is vital to our spiritual health. If we set out too fast and assign unreasonable tasks and goals for ourselves we will become injured. Setting expectations which greatly exceed our capability demonstrates an immaturity, poor judgment and an idealism of limited understanding of the task itself; which ensures we will fail.
This overreaching is indicative more of ambition closely knit with false piety; to be found worthy of stretching beyond reasonable limits. The pairing of an inferiority complex infused with arrogance leads to such a profound fragility that the path is laid with all the trappings of dark forces. This perilous approach of dismissing the warning of saged men will lead to frustration and discouragement as the ill prepared inevitably fall short. Biting off more then we can chew is a prideful assertion and results in a vainglorious demonstration.
Saint Paul also echos this cautionary note by likening the good race for the crown of life to a long race. He points out that the goal is not to win but to finish. The character of a Christian is summed up by terms which indicate an enduring spirit, a long term condition and not a sprint. Too many of us enter into theosis binges which are full of stringent regulations and devoid of understanding, gentleness or mercy. Many pilgrims to monasteries leave recharged spiritually and rededicate themselves to 'walking the walk" which may be quite the point. But to leave and attempt to create a marriage on monastic ideals is an obvious error in good sense. Likewise attempting to stress the body with rigid fasting ideals of a monastic will eventually prove too unreasonable for many and wear your nervous system leaving you irritable.
Yesterday I completed my eighteen mile training session in preparation for my Run for Religious Freedom Marathon less then a month away. It was a very good session overall but this wear and tear on my muscles have me thinking a lot about what is too much. There is the actual workout all good; then the delayed onset muscle soreness which is not so good. I have another eighteen miler next week before I taper my mileage for the race. I know this pace will lead to injury so after my race I must return to moderate running. Ten to fourteem mile long runs are optimal. My purpose is to be able to be race ready and to continue to use the runs for my private devotional time.
Knowing how to stress just shy of the breaking point is key. Push too far and you end up on the couch. Go too easy and improvement is slow almost static. Find that right groove and your break-through is right there on the horizon. We must not allow our zeal to design a poor plan for us or else over time and with repeated failure or disappointment we fashion it as a crutch of excuses. Look inward for your path. We may find mentors, teachers and good examples like in the Saints but we should not 'mimic' in an artificial way another's path. Know your limits if you want to do more then you must have a plan, begin, and be consistent. As your strength grows your stamina increases, your form improves (regardless of the task) you will have greater endurance and be able to assert these skills to greater challenges. This is how we can set super-goals which can be a catalyst for change. To be an effetive a change-angent in your own life begin always with a plan and continue sweat equity. It takes practice and faith.