Living As Apprentices
I recently discovered an old photo of myself in pink workout suit, grinning widely and holding a huge “gold” medal. You see, more than two decades ago I was a race walker of sorts. A friend and I attended a training workshop led by a true race walker and then began training together for a local race. At the end of that race, my friend was behind me because my race, begun as an exercise challenge, became a competition. I won first place for my age group. Soon after that, I moved away. I lost the incentive for race walking when I “lost” my friend, but I did continue to enjoy walking as exercise until I started working again a few years ago.
Two days ago, I tried walking several blocks with a group of people and having a conversa- tion at the same time. The result was a scary bout of wheezing. I had to go to the back of the group, walk slowly, and postpone a great chat for another time.
What has happened to me?
I learned what happened from Steven Pressfield, author of a timeless and well-respected book on creativity, The War of Art. Pressfield gave me a new name for an old problem. The new name is Resistance (always capitalized). It describes an understanding of a behavior that I formerly would have labeled procrastination. You know, the thing that happens when a good intention turns into “I’ll do it some other time.”
Resistance, says Pressfield, “cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled, but it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field. . . . It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. . . . Resistance is the enemy within. . . . Resistance by definition is self-sabotage.” Pressfield writes mostly about how resistance affects the act of writing, but he convincingly shows why it applies to everything we do.
The only answer to Resistance for a writer, he says, is to set yourself down in the seat and start writing. You don’t wait for the door of creativity to open, warmly inviting you to walk through. The discipline of beginning the act will open the door of creativity. The way to overcome not walking is to walk; lace up the shoes, put the inhaler in the pocket, and step out the door.
Why is it so hard to start – not just writing or walking – but anything? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of missing something more intriguing or gratifying? Fear of the unknown? Fear of what someone else might say? Fear of looking silly? Fear of stretching? Fear of being happy? Fear of giving up the role of victim? Fear of expectations? Fear of becoming who we were meant to be? Probably all of those and more. The only way to beat fear is to just begin.
But Pressfield goes farther than just saying, “Take action.” He says that there are”forces that we can call our allies. As resistance works to keep us from becoming who we are born to be, equal and opposite powers are counterpoised against it. These are our allies and angels.” Ah, now herein lies the power. Once we are open to the process, we are not alone in the action.
Understanding the overcoming of Resistance has greater value to me than just helping me to exercise or sustaining the effort of writing a book. It also impacts a much deeper need – to glorify and live for God. As Christians we know that the Holy Spirit lives in us to nurture our growth, conform us to the image of Christ, and forge a deeper connection to God.
So, here is how Apprentices of Jesus overcome Resistance. We remember who we are in Christ. We listen for and accept God’s vision for our lives. We take one step forward and begin training ourselves to accomplish that vision. We find a spiritual exercise (s) that works for us (prayer, Scripture reading, silence and solitude, simplicity, fasting, surrender). And we choose daily (and even hourly) to “sit in the seat.” We accept the fact that we will face Resistance; we might even name that resistance the “Evil One.” We overcome the Resistance by intentionally, every day, taking steps forward. We open to ourselves to our “allies and angels” whom we might name the Holy Spirit. And we persevere.
See you on the race track!