What I Talk About When I Talk About Lifting #5

Photo by Delaney Van on Unsplash

Last week I was benching, maxing out at 315 pounds for just one rep. I asked the gym bro, Scott, to spot me.

“I don’t need a lift off but if I need help on the up I’ll tell you and help me up,” I told him. I lifted the bar off, brought it down to my chest and pressed it back up with no problem.

“Easy,” said Scott.

I felt good, strong. I heard a young man tell his friend, as they watched me, “That’s where I want to get to, like that guy.” I hear what he’s saying. It’s been three years since I’ve gotten back into weightlifting. Being able to hit a one rep max at 315 at 44 years of age doesn’t just happen by accident. As awe-inspiring as some might see a 315 bench press, that guy doesn’t know what it’s taken for me to be able to press that much weight. And as much as my ego liked to hear what it did, there’s a lot more to me, to all of us, than physical strength.

Heartbreak sends a lot of people to the gym. Social media is filled with gym influencers and their observations about gym life and the personalities one finds there. Suffice it to say, many find themselves there because of hard times. You try to live through it. Sometimes things get better but then sometimes they go bad again. And again. And again. But you keep going because now you’re chasing the healing and high of endorphins as well as the gains. It makes you feel better. You walk in worried, bitter, angry, sad and you walk out pumped, confident, clear-headed and better. And not to mention stronger but you have to keep coming back; it’s like what they say in AA, “Just keep coming back.” Something happens, growth happens, not just physical gains but mental, emotional and spiritual. There’s a lot of figuring and reckoning that happens; I liken it to the clarity one may find when they go on a long walk or run or drive. You see your role in things, the good and the bad. You remind yourself that you’re human and humans make mistakes. You appraise your life and your decisions and you find solutions, sometimes moving on is the only and best thing to do. One may realize that through heartbreak, self-reflection of errors and other difficulties of life, you are strong. It hits you, you’re like you know what?, I am strong, and I’ve been through some stuff! You see that you’ve been underestimating your strength. You may not be pressing a 315 pound bench press, but there are other evidences in your life that would amaze others.

You kept going when you wanted to quit.

You kept your wits about you when others did not.

You recreated yourself.

The situation you lament is strengthening someone else.

You have forgiven yourself.

You have forgiven others.

Making peace with those who have hurt you makes a 315 pound bench press look like, to use the words of eight-time Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, “Lightweight baby!” I know this is easier said than done and I know everyone has different experiences where the hurt is and has been very real. But consider the alternatives — living in a perpetual state of bitterness and anger, nursing a victim’s mentality, paralyzing self-pity. I’ve been there and stayed there way too long. I needed someone to tell me straight-up, “You are stuck in a victim mentality and until you let go of that, you won’t be able to heal.” But nobody did. The question still remains, how do you make peace? Questions are important. We ask them because many times, we don’t know what to do, we need an approach, a strategy. For me, the question I asked over and over was, “Lord, how do I make peace when I don’t have the strength or heart to do it?” I always knew the answer meant yielding and getting out of the way and letting God work on my heart, for that always comes before the giving of strength. I know it looks like weakness. I know it looks counterintuitive. I know it may sound like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do but forgiving like you’ve been forgiven, treating others the way you want to be treated and treating others the way God treats you, is the road to peace. Today, I can sit at a dinner table, pray, hold hands, talk and laugh with those who have hurt me. Yes it took time. Yes it hurt. Yes I know it doesn’t make sense. I’m not special because of this and it’s certainly not because I have the strength to bench 315 pounds, for it’s truly God that strengthens when we are weak and God who redeems even the most hopeless situations.

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Zeke Soza

California native, Idaho resident. English and Creative Writing Teacher. Father, Christian, Ex-Marine, Introvert, Reader, Writer.