One of the recent social media fitness crazes is the plank challenge. You may have noticed these hashtags #plankchallenge #plank-a-day #corestrength #planking #fitgirl. You may also have seen images of people “planking” in odd places.
What is a plank? A plank is a physical exercise to strengthen your core: you balance your body, parallel to the floor/ground, with your forearms and toes/balls of feet, the rest of your weight is supported by your core strength. The image below highlights the muscle area strengthened with planks.
(image source: everythingbethy.wordpress.com)
The challenge is to plank daily while increasing your time incrementally for 30 days, and post videos/pics of yourself doing the challenge, with your plank time, on social media. Some challenges implement inviting followers to participate in the contest.
Why participate in the plank challenge? There are multiple benefits. Obviously – planking increases physical strength and stamina. Interestingly, while researching for this blog, I discovered planking also can increase flexibility and mental clarity. Woohoo! Bonus, for certain. Another benefit is simply the fun of being a part of a movement. For a more comprehensive reads on planking benefits, here is a google link to multiple articles/blogs discussing the advantages of employing this exercise regularly. Some of the most commonly listed benefits include: increased strength, increased flexibility, improved mental clarity, better posture, less fatigue, less back pain.
As fun and rewarding as this latest fitness craze appears to be — there was another plank challenge started long ago, millennia, in fact. Jesus of Nazareth issued the original plank challenge approximately 30 A.D. when He admonished, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5 NIV). What in the world does Jesus mean here? …take the plank out of your own eye. He is speaking metaphorically. The verses preceding the plank portion warns us about judging others. Truly, a part from the grace of God, I (& you!) could very likely have found ourselves in the positions of many “deplorable” “lamentable” “less than ideal” situations.
So, here is my three part plank challenge: (1) implement the current plank challenge to strengthen your physical body; (2) concurrently, implement Jesus’ plank challenge to strengthen you spiritual core. Remove judgmental-ism and replace it with self-reflection. Pray according to Psalm 26:2, “Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.” Then, be still to hear from Him. Act on what He shows you. Journal your journey and victories, both physically and spiritually. Document your physical growth with pictures. I am willing to share my embarrassing “form” in the spirit of encouragement. Feel free to share your experience(s) in the comments. 🙂 The third portion of my challenge is to invite others to join you in this journey!
10/28 First plank – 00:29:21. That’s ZERO minutes, 29 and 21/100 of a second. Admittedly, I have a lot more growth to do than I first had thought. I had guessed I would hold a plank for at least a minute. WRONG. Not even HALF a minute. But, the plank still felt good, and I pushed myself to hold out that long. Here is a picture of my first plank. My toddler was “helping” me. He dragged in a booster seat, rolled beneath me, and finally sat beside me, pleased to simply watch. You may encounter similar “support” from your circle of friends and family when you begin your spiritual planking. They may seem to be in your way, but choose to use their “activity” to strengthen your resolve.
Looking too closely at this picture challenges me – I weigh more now than I did 9-months pregnant with most of my six children. I am determined to get back in shape, though. Pulling the plank out of our eyes may prove shockingly painful as well. We may surprise ourselves with discovery of hidden motives, fear, attitudes that do not line up with Godliness. But – the results will still feel good, even if our hearts hurt when we see what is being removed.
I pulled a plank out of mine eye through introspect, self-reflection. Where in my relationships with others is there room for ME to improve? Recently, I had to repent to my son for freaking out about him wanting to give away a $210 pair of cleats HE had paid for via lawn work and lay-away. I had deposited $50 and told him he had to earn the rest. And then, I lectured him about $$ because he walked away from soccer to focus on golf. I asked him for forgiveness for being “poverty minded” about the cleats, and not trusting him to use the peace we have taught him to follow. Club soccer was not inexpensive – but again, my son had to earn a portion of the registration fees. We had stepped out in faith to invest the initial deposit, and God met us through Phillip’s work ethic and friends who needed yard work done! Thankfully, God got a hold of my heart BEFORE the orthopedist appointment today revealed he has a stress fracture in his spine, and he needs to focus on ONE sport to minimize pain and further damage. Interestingly, the pediatric orthopedist included daily planking in his prescribed protocol.
Plank in my eye: price tags impeding generosity and following peace for my kiddos.
Solution: Be still, and KNOW He is God, He speaks to my children on His own. Similar to physical planking increasing flexibility, spiritual planking increases ability to bend.
10/29 Second plank – 00:35:93. Hey, it’s an improvement! I’ll take it! While I tightened my abdominal and back muscles to support myself, I heard and felt popping in my lower back — and you know what? As I focused on strengthening my core, my body adjusted itself.
As you focus on strengthening your spiritual core, Holy Spirit will adjust you. Today, He did just that to me.
Plank Prayer: …see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:24).
Spiritual planking: The Lord revealed to me today how I facilitated a perpetual rejection cycle with someone dear to me, who often is cold and practices rejection in effort to protect him/herself from rejection, whether real or perceived. This person has been emotionally abused in life and has a self-protection mechanism of keeping people s/he loves at arm’s length. Holy Spirit arrested me today as I had felt my heart hardening toward him/her in their prickliness. I was on the brink of retorting in a carefully worded “back-off” – but, He challenged me to love recklessly, and I did. I did not reply to the bristle, and changed the subject. The rest of our communication was enjoyable, and our bond strengthened.
Plank: fear of rejection
Solution: Love – perfect love casts out fear. Just as physical planking encourage toxin release from the body, spiritual planking removes attributes that are toxic to life, like rejection and the fear of it.