Something about quitting

Something about quitting

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, but eventually it will subside and something else will take it’s place. If I quit however, it lasts forever.”

Lance Armstrong

There was a time that I believed this wholeheartedly. It was the hardcore mantra that I wanted to hear to prove my relentless pursuit of achievement and success in all areas of my life. Quitting was for the weak-minded or the lesser humans who couldn’t muster the courage and discipline to push on through adversity or trial. Perseverance is what I was all about.

As an elite level powerlifter, I took great pride in never missing a training session. I was relentless. I could push through all manner of set backs. I was single-minded in my devotion to being the best that I could be. I assumed that this work ethic spilling over into other areas of my life was a good thing too. At work, at church, at home. I could persist with dogged determination better than most people I met. Drive and persistence are how people saw me.

But then one day recently, I began to question the validity of Lance Armstrong’s quote. It had nothing to do my his fall from grace either.

“Pain is temporary”.

Well, this just felt out not true. Pain can be chronic. Some pain never goes away. In fact, pain can be a great teacher. It can teach you what to avoid. A great neuroscientist once told me that pain is an action signal to do move differently.

“It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day”

How about ten years? Some pain last twenty, thirty, forty years. Pain can last a lifetime. Chronic pain can be debilitating and soul crushing. The kind of pain that is there day in, day out soon destroys a persons quality of life. It isn’t a big jump to make the connection from physical pain to emotional pain either. Or spiritual pain for that matter. Pain left unchecked is a major problem.

“Eventually it will subside and something else will take it’s place”

Sounds good in theory but like most internet memes, it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

“If I quit however, it lasts forever”

No Lance, you’re wrong. Ask any smoker if they think quitting lasts forever. Quitting I believe, gets a bad rap. After all, if I quit, I can always start again. John Farnham has quit how many times now? He always seems to make a comeback, though.

Quitting doesn’t last forever. Quitting can be the most difficult thing you can ever do. Sometimes quitting means having to quit the same thing every day for the rest of your life.

So these days I have become a huge fan of strategic quitting.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve quit lately:

  • I quit checking Facebook on my iPhone
  • I quit coffee for ten days. This wasn’t a good quit, so I started again. Quitting didn’t last forever.
  • I quit worrying about what others think about my vocational choices
  • I’ve quit running several times. This is probably something that will appear on the un-quit list soon
  • I quit putting my health behind performance
  • I quit ignoring my pain

The weekend just past, I joined the men from Big Table at our annual retreat. There is something about quitting what we normally do, if only for a weekend, to create space in which God can work. Long pauses, longer walks and times of reflection permeated the weekend. God was deeply and acutely present.

One of the essential elements of the Christian journey is quitting. When we come to Christ, we quit trying to do everything our way. We begin to quit pride, ego, and self-centredness. We quit living only for self and begin living to serve God and to serve our communities. Quitting like this is liberating and life-fulfilling. It’s not weakness.

To quit living for self and to live for Jesus takes constant attention. The attention that can only be given when there is space. To do this, some things must be sacrificed.

So the big take away from the weekend for me was to keep on sacrificing those things that take up unnecessary space in my life. The rituals that I run to and the treasures that keep me from His presence will be sacrificed. I am sure I will have to quit these more than once (more than ten times too). In its place will be things like stillness and silence. A wise man told me that it’s ok, maybe even a sign of maturity, to sit down for a few minutes now and then and simply stare at the ceiling.

It’s time to give God space to move in my world. By quitting the things that distract me from God, I give God the opportunity the deal with the pain in my life.

It’s time to start quitting.

What will you quit?

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