A few months back, the class instructor at UFC gym had us work on a speed bag for warm ups.
It was incredibly frustrating. So frustrating that I started becoming obsessed with it. It looked so simple. So graceful. The fact that I was stumbling over my hands was incredibly humbling.
So I started putting money away to get a speed bag platform until my brother and his wife generously gifted me with one. Funnily enough, every time I come over to their place, I leave with swag. I might end up being conditioned to expect something every time I come over.
So I started working on the bag, much to the annoyance of my family because it can get a little bit loud — even if it is in the garage. I’ve been trying to put at least 5 minutes each day on that bag. In doing so, I started to gain some perspective/insights about my life in 2018 (Oh yea — this is a year that was reflection that I rope-a-doped you into).
HIT 1-2-3 HIT 1-2-3 HIT 1-2-3 HIT
First thing I learned is that the speed bag is about rhythm more than anything else.
You hit the bag, then let the bag hit back of the platform – front of the platform – back of the platform and then you hit it again. And you keep that rhythm going. This is why some boxers can hit the speed bag with their eyes closed — they’re focusing on the sound, the rhythm — rather than what they’re seeing.
I found it difficult in finding a rhythm in the latter half of 2018.
Hubris is a real killer. Often times, you don’t even know that it’s hubris that’s in your driver’s seat. It does a good job of masking its presence in your mind and soul.
I was certain that I’d be able to balance the things I just took on. And at first, I did. Perhaps it’s adrenalin and the newness of it all. But those things fade and leave behind reality for you to navigate through.
Sunday mornings were the worst. We’re all creatures of habit. I had a rhythm to Sunday morning that focused on centering myself before worship. And granted — a lot of that was doing nothing. I know it sounds weird, maybe even lazy. But I’d show up to church around 740a, often with the Son in tow. And we’d do our morning routines of saying ‘hi’ to everyone (because he has to say ‘hi’ to everyone). Then it was making sure that everything’s good to go for Sunday morning. Go through my notes; make sure that I don’t forget the important parts of the sermon or the service. This was often done in solitary.
But I no longer had that opportunity and I needed to find a new way to center myself. It’s that I just couldn’t get a grasp of a new rhythm.
I’m going over the sermon in my head as we’re singing in the service. I’m centering myself as I’m walking up to the pulpit.
Each Sunday would end feeling like everything was a blur.
I hope all went well.
I hope I didn’t do or say anything stupid.
I hope I didn’t forget to do or say anything.
I hope my sermon made sense.
Which is never a fun way to reflect on a Sunday.
(And yes, I do fully realize all those are me-centered).
Something somewhere had to give — because this was ever the slightest spark that could lead to a fantastically horrifying burnout.
As much as we talk about rest and sabbath, churches and pastors/leaders, in general, are horrible about preventing burnout. Because many churches — particularly the mainline denominations, and even more the declining mainline denominational church — have this idea that everything needs to be done even if it hasn’t been bearing fruit for half a century — because Grandma Esther — bless her heart, who’s no longer with us — started that ministry and even though it’s not reaching anyone and no one’s really engaging in it, we still have to do it. Because Esther.
In these churches, the idea of pruning is foreign. And when you approach the idea of pruning ministries and programs, we walk away with the need to do more instead of focusing on the few things that the church is actually bearing fruit in. So we stretch ourselves thin.
We make everything important so that nothing becomes important.
But changes are coming for me.
Some of it will be minor and temporary.
Some of it will be major and permanent.
And in 2019, I need to keep my hubris in check.
It’s also important to not take intention out of the rhythm or routine.
Sometimes, rhythm will turn into routine and routine turn into something that we do because it’s always what we’ve done. To prevent that, yes Allen Iverson, we need to practice.
Practice is an essential reset button that we must push many times before we can experience any genuine newness… Without practices that change our responses, we just keep endlessly repeating our culturally trained and already well-practiced survival and control mechanisms.
Mindless repetition of any practice, with no clear goal or purification of intention, can in fact keep us quite unconscious — unless the practices keep breaking us into new insight, desire, compassion, and an ever-larger notion of God and ourselves.Just This – Richard Rohr
SLOW THE **** DOWN!
There were very few moments where I felt like I got a good rhythm going on the speed bag. When that happened, I naturally wanted to go faster. Like, oh good, I think I got the hang of this, let’s go faster. And the moment I felt my hands try to speed up, I’d lose the beat and mess up.
It’s hard to put in the time to get the results we want.
It seems like people’s patience seems to grow thinner and thinner as time goes forward.
We want results right here and right now. Think about how impatient we get when we have to wait for something — like a website loading on a coffeeshop’s WiFi.
We’re even tempted to take short cuts (or fudge numbers) to get the results we want.
Part of it is due to Social Media where we compare someone else’s highlight reel to our everyday reel and get discouraged of where we are.
Overnight successes are very few and far between.
They only seem like overnight successes because it’s new to us. We often don’t get to see the behind-the-scene that led to the apparent overnight success. That new church plant down the street from you that’s growing exponentially? Most likely, they’re not blowing up by some accident or by luck (though right time, right place does help). You didn’t get to see all the work, prayers, tears, blood, sweat, and planning that went into launching that church.
But we live in a world where one can get famous/go viral for the most insignificant things — and we want our 15 minutes of fame without the work.
I remember having a conversation with an 8th grader about Kobe Bryant’s work ethic. He was under the assumption that talent was all you needed. But Kobe’s talent paled in comparison to his work ethic. His talent only carried him so far, but his willingness to put work and work on his talent is what made him one of the best players in NBA history (somewhere between maybe 5th to 7th best… in case you’re wondering: 1. MJ 2. LBJ 3. KAJ 4. Bill Russell 5. Kobe… at least this is how I feel in this moment).
I want to hit the speed bag like Michael B Jordan in video at the beginning of this post (and I say MBJ because he’s not a boxer by trade… I’d settle for how Sly hits the bag). But that’s not going to happen overnight.
It’s going to take months of hitting that bag, much to the chagrin of my family. (I’ll probably put a sandbag on top to muffle the sound…)
Lasting success is built upon the foundation of hard work. You got to put in the time to get the results you want. And it’ll take time. There are no shortcuts, there’s no cheat codes, or DLC’s — nothing can substitute for hard work.
Besides going faster than you can handle will likely hinder the success you’re striving for…
And one more thing — it’s not always about the power of the punch. Sometimes, punching too hard can ruin the flow.
I think in real life, we often conflate power and strength.
In order to show our strength, we have to flex our power. And usually we view power as having dominion over something/someone.
Jesus showed tremendous strength but not through power over someone — but through sacrificial love.
Like I said in a previous post — it’s easier to be God than to love God; it’s easier to control people than love people.
Anyway, I learned a lot about myself in 2018 — particularly the latter half of the year. I gained some insights about faith, life, and everything else in between (get it?!?!? … it’s the tagline for the blog… ) while I try to gain a skill (the speed bag) I’ll never need in real life or in my line of work.
Just to share with you my progression, the first video is 7 days in and the second one is 11 days in. My first goal is to make it look and feel natural rather than herky jerky.
Here’s to the adventures we’ll have in 2019!