During a recent swim training session, my coach remarked that I was swimming exceptionally well. As soon as she’d said it, I realized just how smoothly the swim was going. My breathing was easy, my strokes long and purposeful, the distance felt achievable. And Cara, whose eagle-eyes catch every nuance of poor form, had not found it necessary to bring correction. It was one of those days when swimming is pure joy. Indeed, a good day in the pool. Which got me thinking about the “other” days.
The sessions where the required three kilometre distance feels interminable. The days when you feel depleted of energy by the halfway mark and every fibre of your being is screaming “ENOUGH!”
Days when you have to rely on your mind to drag your body to the finish line. Swims when your lungs scream for oxygen, your arms and legs ache and you feel like your pulling your way through glue.
Then it strikes me afresh. I am enjoying this good day precisely because of the hard days. It’s enduring through the hard days that strengthens muscles and toughens the mind. It’s stretching and straining for that three kilometre mark when it feels unreachable, that eventually makes the distance achievable. It’s pushing, enduring and persevering through the hard days that gets you to the good days.
And the same holds true for life. Let’s not kid ourselves here, this race of life is fraught with hard days. If you have yet to encounter one, be thankful, very thankful. And be warned: if you continue of on the road, there are hard days ahead. Days when you are crying out for a downhill and the road ahead is a steep uphill haul. Moments that interrupt a good day and instantly it becomes hard. Seasons when all your well-thought out plans are derailed before you have even begun.
Hard days. The day when you learn that your child has a learning disability, hasn’t passed the grade (while all around you gloating parents are beaming with pride at their children’s achievements). The day when that promotion you have been striving for, hoping for, praying for is awarded to someone else. The day you receive a dread diagnosis, lose a loved one, experience betrayal, rejection. Days when everything you have poured your life into, seems to have amounted to nothing.
Hard days. I don’t know about you but I could certainly enjoy a life without them. And yet, we need them. Without the steep climb there is no view from the summit. Without knowing pain, we can’t know elation. Without enduring through winter, we won’t see spring.
It is through enduring that we overcome. It is through being stretched that we enlarge our capacity. It is in loving through failure, addiction, disappointment that we learn to love unconditionally. It is in the moments when we extend grace to others that we come to truly appreciate grace. It is in enduring the hard that we attain the good.
Stuck in a hard day, hard week, hard season? Keep pressing on. Keep the finish line in sight and don’t give up. Never give up.
Hard days are the paving stones on the road to the good days.