Technically a callus is a build up of dead, compacted skin that is usually located on the hands, feet, or even elbows. These, not too sightly, skin patches are actually part of the body’s attempt to protect itself. We need calluses because we need the protection. Just remember the painful blisters that you’ve received on your hands when starting a new activity, or on your feet with new or ill fitting shoes.
I’m no expert, but I’ve been thinking about the word for a few months now, ever since my coach said something like, “you’ll build a callus and finish better.” He was referring, not to my feet, but rather to my ability to strongly finish a race.
You see, I have (hopefully had) a history of running out of gas and slowing down towards the end of the race. It didn’t matter the length (5k to marathon). So, I’ve been working hard to fast finish the very end of my long runs and fast finish my races. At an October half marathon I tried hard, felt myself fade and was disappointed. But when I looked at my pace for the last mile I was stronger than I thought. Then a couple weeks ago I had my hardest race ever and was exhausted at the end but I managed to muster up a kick for the last quarter mile. So the callus is forming…as I am gradually building the strength to finishing strong.
This concept can go way beyond running though. Think about almost any challenge that we have in life and realize that the harder we work at it, the easier it becomes. This is especially true in doing the things that we don’t really like to do.
Here is a personal example. I am very much the introvert and overall am pretty quiet, especially around people I don’t know well. I would actually rather preach than try and make small talk. Preaching is easier because I’m prepared, I have a text, and I’m relying on the Holy Spirit. But when it comes to conversation I’ve often felt as if my mind is a big blank nothing. Believe me, this is not comfortable!
The seemingly easiest thing to do here would be to avoid placing myself in situations where I’m uncomfortable… maybe just stay home and watch TV, or run all alone all the time, or immerse myself in books to the exclusion of all else. I could do these things, but then would I really be living? Not really.
So a long time ago I decided that I would actually go to places, to parties, to events even if I was uncomfortable. Has it been easy? No way! But I think I’ve built up some let’s go out and mingle calluses. And have made some good friends along the way!
I think the lesson in this for us all is that we gain far more from trying the difficult task than we do in giving up in the face of difficulty. I think of Jesus’ disciples fishing and catching nothing. They were tired, probably frustrated, and ready to give up. Then along comes Jesus and instructs them to throw their nets over the other side. They listened to him and had a miraculous catch.
That would certainly be nice! The point is to try again, and again, and again, and again if necessary. You might not have the same immediate results as the disciples, but I bet when you look back over time you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Oh and one last comment on calluses. Sometimes they grow out of control and that is not a good thing. Same with life, the feelings that we experience are precious…even if sometimes difficult. They alert us to pain and pleasure, to joy and sorrow. Let’s not live or work in such a way that the feelings become deadened… that my friends is another sort of callus… or spelled differently “callous”, or insensitive, or hardened. There is no life here.