One of my favourite Oxford walks is by the Thames from Iffley Lock to Folly Bridge.
As it gets warmer, the river is crowded with school and college rowers. And, on the banks, an obnoxious man with a bullhorn cycles beside the perspiring rowers, shouting tips on posture and alignment and synchronization.
Our family loves rowing and canoeing, slowly, dreamily, aimlessly. Watching those focused rowers, Zoe said, “I would never want to do THAT kind of rowing.”
No, neither would I. (Though Roy who rowed for his college, Corpus Christi, Cambridge, says, “Humph!”)
So the rowers have a choice. Listen to the man with the bullhorn, and get better.
Or turn a deaf ear to him, and get kicked out of the team, and perhaps lose your race. No more early mornings rowing on the river as the mists rise, and the birds sing, and the dreaming towers emerge from the lifting mist.
If they do not push themselves, their world shrinks.
* * *
My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,
As if life’s business were a summer mood;
As if all needful things would come unsought
To genial faith, still rich in genial good;
Wordsworth wrote. Yeah, me too. Me too.
And that’s how I like to walk, “in pleasant thought/ As if life’s business were a summer mood.” Slowly, dreamily.
I worked with a personal trainer last year on (don’t laugh!) my walking speed, because one of my favourite things to do with friends is walk with them, and many of my friends are younger than I, and I was having trouble keeping up!
And Joanna kept saying, “Push yourself, Anita. Increase your speed until you are perspiring. Increase your speed until you are slightly out of breath. Walk as if you are trying to catch the last train out. You grow new blood vessels and capillaries. You will strengthen your heart and lungs.”
So faced with my embarrassment when I walk with “normal” people, and get breathless, I have been pushing myself. I walk with Runkeeper on my iPhone, which tells me my pace, and push, push push, until I am sweaty and breathless. But then I come home, from about 3.5 miles of this, and feel wonderful.
Isn’t it great that God gave us such a means of feeling really, really wonderful, this endorphin high, lying coiled, dormant, right within our bodies?
* * *
I am writing this having just arrived in Phomh-Penh—definitely outside my comfort zone. I accepted a Tearfund Challenge to tell the story of their projects, and help raise support for them.
The 100 degree heat; jet lag; the unfamiliar culture; the challenges of live-blogging, the hassle of using new technology and getting my old techie stuff to work here, and the risk of getting ill—oops, this will definitely be outside my comfort zone.
* * *
Pascal says “One of the greatest causes of man’s unhappiness is his inability to sit quietly in a room.” Yes, I believe that if one cannot find happiness within oneself, and vertically, drawing comfort, nourishment and love for God, deriving happiness from other people can be elusive. They fill our emotional tanks, but once these are drained, we want more.
However, growth does not come from sitting quietly in a room. Growth comes from doing things at which one is likely to fail, and then failing, and humbling oneself to ask for help. Or better still, succeeding and then accepting a new challenge. Growth comes from learning.
For instance, we had an opportunity today to spend two hours sitting in Bangkok airport, or taking a taxi and exploring. We took a taxi and explored—the charms of a vibrant Buddhist culture, massive Buddhas, viharas and wats everywhere, street markets and aromatic street food. Augustine calls travel “reading from the book of the world,” and so indeed it is.
* * *
It’s not just growth that happens outside one’s comfort zone. What happens outside the Christians’ comfort zone is that we are pushed into the Holy Spirit, pushed into Christ, because our own resources—they fail us.
Pray for me—for health and strength and coherent (and God willing inspiring) blogging and that I and the other two bloggers, Danny Webster and Rich Sells succeed in our challenge of inspiring 60 new people to support Tearfund’s work in Cambodia with £3 a month.
Do follow our adventure here, please.
Holly Poulter, Tearfund’s media officer adds: People can text HOPE TODAY to 70444 to subscribe to give £3 a month to See For Yourself. It will be added to your mobile phone bill. Tearfund receives 100% of the money. This subscription service will cost £3.00 per month until you send STOP to 70080.