It’s a hot Saturday afternoon in August. I am at the Central Valley Throwdown in Tulare, Ca. It’s one of the more popular crossfit comepetitions in the Central Valley and my team and I, along with many other athletes from our gym, have been preparing for this competition for months. All day long I have felt strong. I am confident we have what it takes to perform in the finals like we have in every workout leading up to this point.
I walk over to the warm-up area, feeling optimistic about being one of the top 10 teams in the finals. Our team, The Quad Squad, completed 3 workouts and we are currently in 3rd place out of 35 teams. We got this! If we continue to perform in the finals like we have all day, we can stand on the podium.
Optimism quickly turns to disappointment as my teammate, Drew, points to an unfamiliar object sitting on the floor. I am told it’s called a “log”. It’s made out of metal and shaped just like a log with handles on the inside. He tells me we have to clean and jerk this thing with weight at each end of it.
I walk over to it and grab the handles. It feels awkward because we always use barbells to do our clean and jerks in the gym. I have never lifted weights like this before. I practice a few times and I’m all over the place with it. Sometimes I can only clean it. Sometimes I can both clean and push jerk it.
I walk away, hoping the adrenaline will somehow give me the extra strength I need to do my part. The last thing I want to be is the weak link in the final workout.
And then it’s time for the teams to get in our lanes. I hear the announcer say, “3 …. 2 …. 1 … GO!”
The guys go first and complete their round of movements. I am waiting and praying I can lift this log that weighs 100lb. I just need to complete 8 clean and jerks. That’s it! I do it every day in the gym with a barbell. This weight is doable.
Me and my partner, Laura, run to the rig and complete our toes above hips. We jump off the bar and run to the log. I go first and take a deep breath. I do my first clean, and with all my strength I push jerk it and complete that lift too. As Laura completes her lifts flawlessly, I get ready for my second clean and jerk with the log. I grab the handles and take another deep breath. I clean it and let it sit on my chest for a minute while I catch my breath and regroup. I push with all my strength, and although it’s lopsided and ugly, I manage to complete the push jerk.
As Laura continues to complete her clean and jerks with ease, I realize my strength is fading. I am not sure how I’m going to complete my next six lifts. I grab the handles and clean with everything I have. I let the log sit on my chest and I take several breaths before I try to push jerk it again. I get the log about half way up and then it slams to my chest again. I let it sit there, take another breath, and try to push jerk it again. I can’t complete the lift and I slam the log on the ground in frustration.
I can’t quit! I have to keep trying to do my part. I don’t want to be the weak teammate who can’t pull her weight in the final workout. I try again. And again. And again … until I have to let Laura take the rest of my clean and jerks. On this day, at this moment … I am weak!
Being weak isn’t something we talk about too much in the world of exercise. I don’t believe I know anyone who strives to be weak. But what I’ve learned from doing crossfit is sometimes we’re just weak. No matter how hard we try, how much we train, how well we eat or how positive we think … sometimes it’s just heavy. And sometimes we can’t lift it.
Let me give you permission to be weak. God doesn’t expect us to be strong all the time. What He expects is for us to draw our strength from Him. No matter who we are, how much we read the Bible and pray, or how often we go to church … life gets heavy and we get weak.
When you feel weak in crossfit, you get over it and train harder the next day. But what do we do when life bogs us down and we feel the weakness of the soul?
This week it felt like my soul was tethered to the anchor of the Queen Mary. I read my bible. I pray. I’m a joyful person most days. But for some reason, life just felt heavy this week. No one could make me feel better. It’s the kind of weak you feel when you force yourself to smile. It’s the kind of weak you feel when you have to drag yourself around because you don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. It’s the kind of weak that makes you question who you are.
We have to realize and accept that we’re not going to feel strong ALL THE TIME. And that’s o’kay. It’s in our weakness that we experience the strength of God.
Paul was one of the greatest Christians. He always seemed strong, saw visions, and wrote most of the New Testament. But he got weak. He had a problem that he struggled with and he asked God to take it away from him. God told him no. God said he wouldn’t take the problem away because it was good for Paul to experience weakness. This is what God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power (strength) is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9) Paul was struggling with weakness. He didn’t measure up to the standard and he pleaded with God to take the problem away. But God said His grace was sufficient in those times when Paul couldn’t live up to the expectations he was striving for.
I haven’t boasted to anyone that I couldn’t complete 8 clean and jerks with that log. Who does that? I didn’t post on social media that I failed at 6 of my 8 lifts and my freakishly strong friend, Laura, completed 14 of the total 16. No one likes to brag about being weak! But, Paul does. He says that because God’s strength is perfected in his weakness, he will “boast all the more gladly about [his] weaknesses, so that Christ’s strength may rest on [him]. That is why for Christ’s sake, [he] delights in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” (2 Cor 9:10) Boasting in weakness? That goes against everything our society has ingrained in us. No one admits weakness … and we definitely don’t brag about it.
I have a confession to make: I feel the pressure to be strong for everyone. I feel like I need to be strong for my family, my friends, and even you, the one reading this blog right now. But once again, during a physical crossfit competition, God taught me that there’s strength in weakness. It’s His strength. As my body gave out and the workouts took their toll on me, I was zapped of my strength. Not God. His strength is perfect. It never gives out and He never grows weary.
So, my friends, let me leave you with this: it’s o’kay to be weak sometimes. It will happen. It’s life. As long as we lean on the One whose strength is perfect, we won’t feel weak for long. And remember what Paul said after he admitted his weaknesses and said he would boast of them. He said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10) It looks like the weak ones are really the strong ones after all!