The beat of the music hadn’t increased. Rather, my pace had decreased. My muscles ached as my brain told them to keep up, but the occasional scrape of the bottom of my shoe against pavement hinted that the legs were too tired to lift my feet higher, let alone move them faster. This plodding had become irregular after the third mile, but at least it was taking me home now.

My lungs ached from the rapid expanding and borderline collapsing that had become my breathing and sweat seemed to be coming out of every pore. I had the nasty, wet “U” shape on both my back and chest. My hair dripped with perspiration which rolled down my forehead and temples into my eyes. I kept trying to wipe it off with the back of my hand, but more appeared in its place.

I ran until my legs begged for mercy,

until I was drenched in sweat and I reeked with body-odor.

It wasn’t pleasant, but it was good.

The fruit of my labor produced two results: The most obvious was that it wrecked my appearance: hair that had been molded with product hung limp and dripping over my eyes. My generally fair complexion hid behind crimson cheeks, ears and neck. And the nice cologned smell that lingers just long enough after I had left a room, destroyed by evaporated sweat leaving deposits of God knows what on my skin.

The (still) unseen result was that my heart was in better shape. The muscles in my legs weren’t necessarily growing, but certainly weren’t shrinking. My lungs were becoming accustomed to hard work and it was becoming increasingly difficult to become winded in everyday activity.

Spiritually exerted  effort looks a lot like going for a long run. Serving can wreck you and leave you red in the face. Mentoring someone might leave you smelling badly (shepherds smell like sheep, you know). A general involvement with people in the sense of helping them might occasionally make you want to die, and it’s alright.

Hard work kills pretentiousness and forces us to abandon appearances. The nasty inside of us has to come out which might leave you looking that that gross sweaty guy at the gym.

Celebrate when this happens. It’s alright for your dirt to show up on the outside, because then it’s easier to wash off. Just remember to keep on working, to continue to try and eventually, you’ll end up in great spiritual shape.