The Beauty of Intensity, Both Physical and Spiritual

After my first go at a “high-intensity” CrossFit workout three years ago, I thought to myself, I have no idea how I survived that. I thought my body would fail.

After I suddenly lost my dad on a beautiful August evening five years ago, I thought to myself, I have no idea how I survived that. I thought my spirit would fail.

We’ve all been through intense situations and lived to tell about them. The question I have for you in this article is:

How would you react if an intense situation presented itself to you today?

“Intensity” is defined as “extreme strength, force, energy, or feeling; the degree or amount of strength or force that something has.”[1]

When we call a roller coaster “intense,” we’re referring to its scream-eliciting speed, the bone-rattling force of its twists and turns and sudden stops, and its heart-pounding vertical drops. We often step off of the ride, waddle a few steps, and say with stammering lips, “Well, I survived…”  When a film critic speaks of an actor’s intensity, he’s likely referring to the actor’s ability to powerfully convey heavy emotions such as anger, outrage, melancholy,  and determination, to name a few. In the first example, intensity is felt bodily; in the second, it’s experienced emotionally, or spiritually. (Of course, emotions can indeed cause physical symptoms, such as sweating, fatigue, appetite loss, etc.) But both can accurately be described as “intense.”

Returning to the question I posed to you above, intense situations are unavoidable. They’re part of life, part of the curse of this earth until Jesus comes again to wipe away every tear and restore all things.[2] There are myriad ways to respond to crises and tragedies, from letting yourself become a veritable ball of paralyzed, self-pitying mush, to turning inward, closing yourself off, and barricading your heart for fear of it feeling it break again. But as unnerving, sad, destructive and devastating as intense experiences can be, each one possesses a unique and extraordinary beauty, hidden like diamonds formed in a meteorite’s crater.

Unfortunately, too many of us don’t take the time to dig for the diamonds; we’re too busy checking our vitals, dusting ourselves off, and moving as far away from the impact site as possible. So the diamonds lie undiscovered…their brilliance never beheld. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on CrossFit after I thought its intensity might make me keel over. And I’m grateful I looked to the Lord to help me find diamonds after I lost one of my dearest treasures, my father.

 

Ashes

 

 

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of ways to exercise, from Aerobics to Zumba – even boot throwing, which turns out to be quite a popular sport in Finland, according to a trivia game I played last night. But lately, mounting research is showing that the ideal form of exercise is something known as “H.I.I.T” – “high intensity interval training.”

A H.I.I.T. workout alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity, or even complete rest. An example is sprinting for one minute and then jogging or walking for two minutes. Repeat that three-minute interval five times for a very efficient, highly effective 15-minute workout.

The benefits – we’ll call them “diamonds” – of H.I.I.T. training are many:

  • Little to no equipment required
  • Short duration
  • Provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), a.k.a., the “fitness hormone”
  • Leads to significant reductions in total abdominal, trunk, and visceral fat, but also can give you significant increases in fat-free mass and aerobic power
  • Improves cardiovascular endurance
  • Promotes weight loss without muscle loss
  • Boosts metabolism thanks to the increased production of HGH

High-intensity exercise, like CrossFit, is tough, but like you read above, the rewards make it more than worth it. Same goes for the “spiritual intensity” that crashes into our lives like a fireball from out of the blue. See what God has to say about the beauty of pain this side of Heaven:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” –James 1:2-4, MSG (emphasis mine)

“Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.” -1 Peter 1:7, MSG

Whatever you’re going through, be it a long, arduous run, a grueling sweat session at the gym, or a family crisis or job dilemma that’s brought you to your knees, I urge you to dig for the diamonds; I encourage you to let the Bright and Morning Star[3] illuminate them for you. I challenge you to walk away from the rubble stronger and more radiant than ever…to see – to become – the beauty of intensity.

 

Rainbow in the Soul

 

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[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intensity

[2] Revelation 21:5; Revelation 21:4

[3] Revelation 22:16

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