At Wit’s End

Have you ever been at wit’s end?
I vividly recall the day I was there.
Twenty-five of us lay on the wooden karate school (dojo) floor
on our backs
breathing heavy
muscles straining
some of the younger students crying.
Standing in the front of the room
the sensei scolded
“Leg lifts,” I said, “keep those legs off the floor
until everyone has kept them up long enough.”
Each time one of us touched a heel to the floor
we started over.
This had been going on for twenty tense minutes.
We’d been training since 7am and now it was past noon.
This final task was all that stood between us, lunch, hot showers, naps, freedom.
But we couldn’t pull it together.
Someone sobbed.
“Cry! Go ahead, cry! If you can’t do this, walk out now.  I don’t need you to get your black belt!”
Someone else dropped a foot.
Everyone groaned.
“Let’s go people. This isn’t brain surgery!” the sensei shouted.
“No. Cause I can DO brain surgery,” muttered the doctor laying to my right.
“No talking! Concentrate on those leg lifts! Would anyone prefer a fifty-page paper assignment?”
I raised my hand.
“Put that hand down. No one is writing their way out of this. This moment is about endurance, strength, self-control, and how much you want to reach the goal.”
The goal was black belt.
We were candidates.
We’d invested three and one-half years of our lives in this pursuit.
Countless hours, bruises, sprains, push-ups, punches, small victories, major setbacks
and now we were here
lying on a wood floor
all the other students sent home for the day
and we would be released, too,
as soon as the entire class
ranging in age from ten to forty-four
held their leg lifts for three minutes
Long, long, long minutes
buckets of sweat
waves of desperation
shouts of encouragement
groans of frustration
but finally
 we did it.
“Three-minute leg lifts” became a phrase synonymous with an unending, unbearable tasks for our little class of candidates.
After that class, there were some stern locker room talks – older candidates to younger candidates – full of words like “suck it up,” “deal with it,” “no whining,” and “put in the hard work or get out now.”
I had time lying on that floor
and in situations since
when I’ve thought about how much we think we can “outsmart” every challenge in modern life.
Sometimes you’ll hear someone remark, “I hope I learn whatever lesson I’m supposed to learn soon so this adversity ends.”
It ain’t always like that.
Sometimes, that’s what adversity is about.
God does send us circumstances meant to teach us lessons.
But, it’s not always about that.
Sometimes it’s about endurance.
Sometimes it’s about building muscle, testing perseverance, self-control, and seeing how much you want to reach the goal.
When a soldier learns how to assemble his or her weapon, why are they required to do again and again and again?
Once an athlete learns how to run a lap or to shoot a ball into a basket or to catch a pass, why are they required to practice, practice, practice?
Musicians learn scales as beginners – why play them over?
It’s not always about knowing something
learning something
developing a new level of awareness.
God wants our hearts, our souls, our minds, AND OUR STRENGTH.
When we reach our wit’s end
He’s there
asking us to hold on just a little longer.
No intellectual lesson.
No moral to the story.
Just training, building strength, cultivating perseverance.
Not traits we learn from a book
Stripes we earn on the mat.
When we reach our wit’s end
He’s there
because we think we know ourselves
but He wants us to see that He knows us better.
He designed us
He knows our capacity
our possibilities
our potential
and when we reach the end of ourselves
He’s hoping we reach out to Him.
“Endure hardship as discipline;” Hebrews 12:7a
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Are you there today? Hold on. Just a little longer.

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    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Whenever we hit the hard spots, we think the devil is after us. Sometimes it’s God training us to endure, perservere, persist, continue. For there will come a time when Christians will need to know we can do all things through Christ (faith) when all else goes to Hell–literally. MOMMA

  2. Judith Robl says:

    Great post! Wonderful lesson!

  3. Okay, I’ll admit my first thought was, “Surely twenty-five black belt candidates could take the sensei down easily.” And sometimes my brain works like that when life is overwhelming me, too. “What can I do to outsmart this problem?” But most times (MOST times!) I realize there’s a greater point to the suffering, and if I worm my way out of it, I worm my way out of His ultimate plan for my good. So yes, I get you. But boy, can it be painful! I’m just so thankful I can trust the Lord to bring the good out of the uncomfortable.