The Mist of Motivation
We all know that familiar slothful feeling that creeps into our minds and chills our zeal. In one moment, we are blazing paths and trails, and the next, we are ice cold and wondering where our passion went.
This is a common occurrence with exercise. Come January 1st, flocks of people eagerly jump into a new workout program. Then on January 8th, the energy has dissipated, and the motivation that once burned bright is now barely alive.
Motivation comes and goes, like mist in the morning. It’s heavy and dominating in one moment, but absent and gone in the next.
How do we deal with the slumps? Do we play pump up music? Watch re-runs of the Rocky Balboa training scenes? Talk down to our inner man until we are guilted into action?
In trying to piece together some answers to these questions for my own life, I came to a very surprising story that serves as an apt illustration of what overcoming a slump looks like: my 4-year-old daughter’s favorite movie.
A Broken Spirit
I never watched the movie “Spirit” until just recently. While it’s my 4-year-old’s favorite movie, it has some serious lessons for us to learn about masculinity and strength.
Spirit is a stallion (voiced by Matt Damon) who grew up in the wild lands of the American frontier. He grew to be his herd’s protector and provider, and the harsh environment and dangers in the frontier hardened his strength and unleashed his zeal. He was a wild, free, and dangerous horse.
He was captured by men in order to protect his herd. Even while he was in captivity, his unassailable passion made his captors fear his strength. He refused to let the men ride him, and after throwing off one rider after the next, his reputation became that of a horse that couldn’t be conquered. His spirit was strong, indomitable, and fearless, and the horses in captivity were inspired and encouraged by his example.
However, after a personal and agonizing loss, his spirit broke. His once strong inner horse was shattered and defeated. There’s a painful scene where he was led by men onto a train, onto a railcar with other horses. The other horses recognized him at once, and their eyes lit up with hope. They stomped their feet with the expectation that Spirit would lead them out of their captivity.
But Spirit didn’t respond like they expected. Instead of his usual strength and defiance, he hung his head down to the ground. His once wild nature was tamed, and his rebellious tendencies were subdued. He didn’t feel like doing anything at all, and those around him fruitlessly waited for him to demonstrate his protective and provisional leadership.
Mission over Motivation
The train carrying Spirit was carrying supplies to extend the railroad across America. And as the train moved from state to state, Spirit continued to hang his head and wallow in his slump. In his daze, he looked out the window and saw familiar mountains.
And that’s when it clicked. He recognized that the train was headed towards his home.
He remembered his duty and responsibility to his herd. While time and distance had separated him from his family, he realized he could protect and provide for them by doing whatever he could to stop the train. And at once, he picked up his head, straightened his chest, and the fire returned to his eyes. The other horses on the railcar noticed, and they responded to Spirit’s energy in hope and anticipation in what would follow.
Spirit’s mission had refocused his mind, sharpened his awareness, and gave him strength. And as the story goes, he was able to free the other horses and stop the railroad expansion. He returned home to his family, and his wild spirit was again able to run free.
His mission did more than just re-energize him. It reminded Spirit who he was, what he was made for, where he was going, and what he must do.
When we try to address our motivation without reminding ourselves about our mission, we are grabbing mist by the handfuls. Our motivation will come and go like mist in the morning. But when we remember our mission, and are reminded about what’s at stake, we are like a wild stallion riding through the mist.
Run the Race with Endurance
Before writing me off for using an animated horse film to make this point, recognize that the writer of Hebrews does something very similar in Hebrews 12. While I’ve written about this in a past article, the main points are worth repeating.
At the opening of chapter 12, the author reminds us of our mission: run with endurance the race that is set before us and look to Christ, our forerunner, example, and victor (Hebrews 12:1-2). And this mission comes at the crescendo of the faithful examples of chapter 11 who have already lived out their mission.
And right after the author reminds his readers of their mission, he addresses their predicament. His readers are “weary and fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3). They are droopy; they have forgotten that God disciplines those that He loves (Hebrews 12:4-11). And like Spirit hanging his head defeated in the railcar, the readers have “drooping hands” and “weak knees” (Hebrews 12:12).
So, the Holy Spirit, through the hand of the writer of Hebrews, encourages us to remember who we are, what we are made for, where we are going, and what we must do. We must lift our droopy heads, stand with strong chests, and remember what we have been called out of, what we are called into, and Who called us.
This mission-mindset is our pathway not out of slumps, but through them. Remembering our mission doesn’t always work like an energy drink, but it always works like an engine. It churns slowly, consistently, and faithfully.
So, with exercise, your mission is to steward your body for God’s glory. Your body does not belong to you, but belongs to God, and He has given it to you to be used for His purposes here on earth.
Use it and run through the mist.
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