It seems that with every corner I turn, this world and its people are always pushing and testing me. My son sees how much he can get away with regarding chores, my dogs test how much of that sandwich I’m really going to eat, and my students push for how much homework they do or don’t have to do when I assign it. My patience is tested in traffic, my endurance is tested in assigned tasks and state mandates at my job, and my tolerance is tested by politics and government. As a result, I may struggle to overcome, but I am always a better person as a result of that struggle. However, the one thing that these struggles all have in common is that they are all from outside sources and are (for the most part) fairly unavoidable. So in contrast, what about struggle that comes voluntarily from within? What about struggle that we purposefully bring upon ourselves for the sake of growth? What about pushing our own boundaries for the sake of purposeful growth? Let me show you what I mean: this week, I tried an experiment during a run. Instead of my usual distance at a certain designated rate, I added an extra mile but didn’t decrease my rate. I wanted to push myself further just to see if I could. In the end, I surprised myself with a better rate than I aimed for, thus learning about myself that I am faster than I allow and give myself credit for. The fact that I was willing to choose an area of my life, explore it, and push it just a little more has developed me as a person and has made me not only happier but also more satisfied. Socrates’ quote “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is often seen as a mantra for those that wish to truly live, and similarly, God calls upon us to explore and push ourselves to be better than we are: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3.40). That we are living is a miracle in itself, so we should celebrate and embrace this miracle of life, adopting an exploratory stance, pushing ourselves daily to develop ourselves as Christians and as people. Without that push, we invite spiritual and mental atrophy, a shriveling up of our identity and our faith. We lose the desire to strike out in faith and to take chances in our day. In the past, I have emphasized thinking beyond ourselves and reaching out to others (known and unfamiliar) not only for God’s glory but also to affect a positive change in our world. Personal exploration and pushing a little beyond what we know is a key in achieving this goal. Doing what is safe in our lives will achieve some results, but by reaching out just beyond what we think we are capable of, we allow God to work in and through us, gaining a firmer understanding of who we are. And these pushes don’t have to be monumental; just explore yourself, find that line, and move one step past it. Like doctors who suggest that to increase one’s lung capacity you should breathe as deep as you can, hold it, then take in two sharp additional breaths, we likewise do not need to leap, but instead just take a small daily step in incremental growth. To start, at the end of the day, try asking yourself this question: what did I learn about myself today? If you can answer it, then you have pushed yourself. If nothing comes to mind, then make that your goal for the next day. That our time is limited here on Earth means that our chances dwindle with each passing day. Push yourself just a little more and embrace the few chances you have. Amen.