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Dangling from the high bar

I’ve never been much good at pull ups. I find this true with lots of folks, especially women. We don’t have much upper body strength – or at least not enough to hoist our girth all the way up to pull our chins up and over that bar – so we wiggle and wriggle. Stress and strain. Struggling against ourselves and gravity.

We may jump up or have someone lift us, and then we see how long we can hold on. (That was standard for elementary PE for girls when I was young-er :)) This always felt kind of demoralizing – not that I needed a lift but that I just hung there, waiting to lose my grip and give in to the fall.

One solution was the low bar. I could easily pull myself up to that. Not much effort required. I started with arms mostly bent, muscles engaged, and simply finished the job. Somehow, staying there was easier, too, because I knew the ground was right there under me. Not a fall away.

But if your objective was a real pull up performed from the hanging position, the low bar didn’t help you. It didn’t strengthen you. It simply gave you the false impression you were stronger, until the high bar humbled you. That’s the thing about real life. It often pulls the firmament right out from under us and we’re left hanging on for dear life.

God has set us a very high bar. He has commanded us to love Him above all else with our whole selves: heart, strength and mind. But he has commanded one more thing: to love our neighbors as ourselves. The law and the prophets hang from these commandments. (Matthew 22: 34-40)

We hang from that very high bar if we seek to love God that way. We may feel the weight of the law pulling us to earth. But God does not leave us hanging. He gives us a strength training program. The exercise prescription: love your neighbor.

That’s hard work. We leap up and plummet. Leap up again. This time, lowering a bit more gracefully. Leap again and hold, hold, hold it there…as long as we can until our grip slips and we can’t hold on any more. Over and over we grab hold of the high bar and resist the pull of gravity with all our might. Each time we can hold on just a bit longer and resist a bit more. Gradually, we grow stronger. 

This leaping and lowering, that’s what loving our neighbors does for us. God insists. It’s the simplest of personal training programs. The home version only requires one piece of equipment. God’s pull up bar, set to its proper height. His command:

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”~ Exodus 20: 3-6

Don’t ever lower that bar. God has plans to love a thousand generations through the love He grows in you. Thus, the second command. The one that has us engaging a personal trainer to give us just enough boost to reach the bar because that requires more strength than we now have. But we will, if we just keep at it.

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