Exertion focuses you. But not on the exertion.
When we were much younger, my husband and I went on a bike touring trip to Vermont. It was the intermediate and advanced excursion. Five delightful days pedaling through rolling hills past pastoral scenes of fields and barns and livestock. Vermont ain’t flat, as the t-shirt says.
Some of the ‘rolls” are a bit more upright, shall we say. But, being young and fit, we tackled them bravely, downshifting through our gears until we got could barely move the pedals. So steep were the hills that our bikes inched up the incline. But our spirits were undiminished as we focused solely on the few feet of pavement that lay between us and our goal, the summit.
Finally, we reached level ground at the top, refreshing the volume in our heaving lungs. And drew in great gasps of… cow manure and hay. Gamely, we spun our pedals on the flat and continued on. Scot looked at me and said, “Bet you’re not thinking about work right now.”
Nope. The exertion of that hill had banished all thoughts from my mind but one: making it to the top.
Extreme exertion focuses you. Almost as if your body wants to distract you from the effort at hand, it pinpoints your gaze on your objective. No wandering to the to-do list. No scanning the horizon for obstacles or opportunities. No wondering about what’s to come next. Just…one…thing.
What if I exerted myself this way in prayer? Full effort, all out, take no prisoners prayer. As if the mountain was the mountain of God and my single objective was the summit. Pedaling for all I was worth. Not stopping but pushing, pushing. Sweat dripping. My heart beating against my chest. My thighs screaming. The soles of my feet forcing the pedals forward and my wheels to roll – ever, ever so slowly but to roll. Mind and body with one objective, to keep moving upward.
What a sweet, sweet intake of breath awaits me.