A callus is a hardening of skin and a callous is to be made hard. Often times, we equate being made hard with negative connotations such as being heartless. What if we rethink what callous and callus means? Calluses can be virtuous and beneficial in growing. Calluses form when we consistently and fervently practice something so that we can endure pain that can come from a good thing. Take playing the guitar for instance. When you first start playing, it hurts. Your fingers burn and tear. The annoying pain alone makes you want to quit, on top of the frustration that comes with first learning how to strum basic chords.
A few weeks ago, the youth group from my church went on a hike as a part of a camp out. On this hike, the youth pastor brought his three dogs. One of the dogs, Charger, started limping as we journeyed down the from Heliograph Peak. Then he stopped and started licking his paws. Me, not growing up having a dog or being active, didn’t know this was a bad thing. Little did I know, the journey up the mountain took a toll on Charger’s paws. What were once rested and healthy, were now torn up and red.
When we hike our own mountains, our hearts are like Charger’s paws. Our hearts start the hike as joyful, well-rested, and we believe we are steadfast in our faith. Through the trials and rockiness of the hike, our hearts become torn up and red.
Calluses were trying to form on Charger’s paws. Calluses would help him in future hikes, although it was painful at the time. Charger, however, could not see past the pain and, being a dog, could not consider the what good lies in the future. For this reason, Charger did what he believed would alleviate temporary discomfort and pain; Charger licked his paws. Although it a felt better than the pain at the time, it prevented calluses from forming, which is better in the long run.
In the same way, on our hikes. Our torn-up hearts become exhausted. We are tired of being hurt. We are tired of being disappointed. We are tired of feeling inadequate. So, we try to get some control in the pain. We do that by excess drinking, drug abuse, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and more. We look for any way to cope in order to assuage the seemingly everlasting pain. We rationalize our actions in different ways. It gets us through the day. It stops us from hurting. All these lies only thwart the formation of callouses, or spiritual disciplines. We can learn from these experiences. They can teach us to see things from a different perspective and fully rely on the hope that is in Christ.
Frequently on this hike, you are hiking alone. You need the calluses so that you can be resilient and persevere. Those nights when everything in you wants to call it quits, you persevere. Those nights where you can’t sleep because the voices in your head are screaming that the world is better off without you, you persevere. Those days you cannot find the motivation to get out of bed, you persevere. Those times where you feel like a burden to everybody and people only help you out of pity, you persevere.
The recipients of the letter written by James were enduring persecution and turmoil. Many of the believers began to follow hedonistic pleasures to combat the struggle. James implores them to seek God’s wisdom to resolve their problem to bear struggles.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
Start allowing those calluses to form. Find your identity and foundation in Christ. Practice spiritual disciplines. The power of prayer and worship is more effective than we give credit. You will not always be successful, so let yourself fail, learn, and get back up.