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The Struggle

By Natashia McLean
woman running in a winter landscape

With every step my foot seemed to drag behind me. My eyes were heavy. My body was stiff. Each number on my alarm clock pierced through the darkness of my room. Time to get up. I didn't want to move. I moved with all the energy I could muster. I didn't want to go. I bent over and picked up my shoes, pulled them on, and laced them up. And with each knot I tied, a voice in my head whispered, "You don't have to do it." It was easy to think of reasons not to go. And the reasons kept coming.

"You should miss the class. You are tired. You're not a good teacher. Your substitute could teach so easily; just call her. You do enough already. Your throat is sore; maybe you're sick. You shouldn't go if you're sick. Today will be hard. You will have to push yourself, maybe feel really uncomfortable, and you will have to fake a smile while doing it. Remember how hard it was last time? You might not feel good afterward. You might not feel like it was worth it. You're going to be late. That will be embarrassing." There it was again. That force that tried to stop me. Almost every time I lace up my shoes that voice, that struggle, comes. But I still go. I peel myself from my bed and lace up my shoes. And I go and teach fitness classes, with a smile.

That voice is half right. My classes are hard and uncomfortable and sometimes I am fighting those voices the whole class. I have to push myself beyond what is comfortable to grow. If I hadn’t gotten out of bed all those mornings for the last four years, I may not have the stamina I have today to chase after my four small children. I may not be able to lift all I do. My body would not be as capable as it is today. I would be lying if I didn't admit that it has been hard and still is, even this day, but it is worth it.

One might assume that after maintaining a regular fitness routine, with each session that difficulty would decrease. And even though I have noticed a habitual ease, that opposition still comes. These reasons come all the time. And every time I push past them. Why? After teaching I feel the effects of the workout. In order for my muscles to become stronger, they must be pushed to the point of exhaustion. My body is exhausted, but I am built up to be stronger. I feel happiness. I feel success. I feel validation that I am strong and I can do what is hard. And I cannot get those effects without the struggle. There was a morning after teaching that I came home to read my scriptures and noticed familiar voices: "You should close the scriptures. You are tired. You aren't a good person. You might be sick. This may be boring. You're not understanding this. You might not feel good afterward. You might not feel like it was worth it. This may make you behind on your to-do list. That will be embarrassing."

As those familiar thoughts entered my mind, I realized the correlation between being physically active and being spiritually active. I sat and pondered about my spiritual experiences and the times that I have really exercised my spiritual muscles. I felt at that moment as if my spiritual trials were truly there to make me stronger. And realizing this brought me peace and encouragement. Those trials had exhausted my spiritual wells and drove me closer to God, seeking His strength. I hope that you too may reflect on the times when you have pushed past opposition and have seen your spiritual muscles grow. The struggle is real. The struggle is hard. But overcoming the struggle is worth it.

Natashia blogs at CanaryJane.com.
Photography by Sara Leonard.