Olivia Newport water exerciseEvery Monday at 8:30 in the morning I show up for torture.

Some of you know what I’m talking about. Those classes at the gym where the instructors actually expect you to put yourself into your workout.

My torture of choice these days is water aerobics. Some people think it is old people exercise, and I grant that a lot of people in the class are of a certain age bracket, including me. But mostly to those skeptics, I say, “Hey, don’t knock if you haven’t tried it.” It’s a 300–500 calorie workout with constant resistance and core work.

Just being in the water means a lot of surface resistance for every move you make. Then those buoys that seem like baby toys on the edge of the pool turn out to be a lot of work to keep under the water.

But what really does it is when the instructor says, “Run toward me” and “Back it up” at rapidly decreasing intervals.

Creating turbulence, she calls it. I’ll say. “Creating turbulence gives you a better workout. It’s all about getting stronger,” she says every stinkin’ Monday.

Now there’s a life lesson in there. I’m not going to push the analogy too far, because I don’t think we have to go chasing suffering. It happens to most of us without our looking for it or creating it on purpose.

But think about the potential for the turbulence in your life to make you stronger.

And think about how much more prepared you’d be for serious turbulence if you used the lesser turbulence to make you stronger in body and spirit.

Maybe we could fear suffering far less than we do. Maybe we can expend less energy trying never to suffer, and more energy learning to navigate the turbulence with grace, faith, and peace.

My friend Dick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about seven months ago. I probably don’t have to tell you that this particular disease is serious turbulence. You don’t just pop a few pills and cut back on fat and sugar. It’s ugly. Vicious. Unstoppable most of the time.

But something Dick said to me will ring in my head for a long time, maybe the rest of my life. “My faith has stood up well. I was never sure whether it would until now, and I’m glad to say it has. What does it matter if I die at 61 or 81? I’ve had a good life. I’ve been blessed and I’m grateful.”

We never know what our bodies, or our spirits, will have to stand up to. I’m going to try harder to be grateful and let the turbulence make me stronger.