Lifting took priority over homework. Jake Bone started just a week after 8th grade graduation so he could be a stronger, better football player. But Jake soon found himself lifting to lift, not to play football. Sure, he still played all four years at Skyview High School. But lifting took priority over everything. Jake had been an unusual kid. A combination of ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome made it hard to connect with kids his age. But he found meaningful connection in his drive to grow stronger.
When Jake graduated from Skyview with a respectable, if not stellar, C+ GPA, he wasn’t sure what to do next. Academics hadn’t been his thing, but he knew he wanted to continue participating in this thing of strength and conditioning. He decided to go for a health and human performance degree at Montana State University Billings, and life took an unexpected turn. Nothing had ever stimulated him as much as his college studies of the human body (biology/anatomy/physiology), generalized exercise science, and – strangely – statistics. “I love stats!” Reflecting on the direction his life has taken, Jake said, “I never really thought I was much of an intellectual until college.”
Lifting for high school football had helped him discover his vocation. His direction crystallized during a 2017 internship with the Billings Clinic Sports Specific Training group. With SST, Jake worked with teens, using strength and conditioning to help them improve in their chosen sport. He learned this was the kind of thing he wanted to do. The physiological and health value was clearly defined and a laudable goal in itself. But on top of that, he realized it wasn’t only about getting bigger and stronger. “It was all about discipline and development of character and how to keep going when things are hard and painful.”
Jake described a kid he’d seen who was small and always seemed exhausted, but he couldn’t understand why. “One day the kid came in with a chemo port under his clavicle. And he still picked up the bar and he still went at it. And I was just thinking, ‘Wow. All these kids have so much to learn from this one kid that it’s not even funny.’ If he can do that, damn straight … ‘Sam,’ who has no confidence, can ask that girl to go get a burger and see a movie. Strength and conditioning, weight lifting, power lifting, whatever. Getting stronger is something that is good for your soul.”
“Iron and the Soul.” Jake sees a connection between the iron of lifting and the soul. It’s also the title of an essay by Henry Rollins. In it, Henry Rollins reflects on his journey of transformation from quintessential 98-lb weakling to a person of strength and character. Iron was his route of discovery. But it’s not all about physical strength. Rollins points out, “Strength reveals itself through character. … Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.” Just like Rollins, Jake’s journey expanded beyond the weight room.
As Jake’s understanding of physical conditioning deepened, his understanding of faith shifted. Jake grew up with a traditional Christian faith. He described it as “a message of contractual belief. If you hand your life over, you can have your sins forgiven and go to heaven.” Then he participated in a study of the gospel of Mark at Intervarsity’s Chapter Camp. It was an “incredibly bare-bones dive into the message of the gospel.” The book focuses solely on Jesus’ message and his resurrection, with no mention of the virgin birth or post-resurrection walkabout. Jake’s experience at Chapter Camp and the influence of CMYK have contributed the most to the reshaping of his faith. Rather than a contractual relationship, he is instead focused on the idea of the Kingdom of God and how participation in it allows for the presence of heaven here on earth, in the here and now.
This shift in perspective has driven a new view of evangelism. Jake has been questioning how much of evangelism is oriented toward converting people to the white middle class and how much is helping them “have a redemptive experience in their own context.” Jake’s goal is the latter. As an active member of the MSUB Intervarsity chapter, Jake describes Montanans as “pretty cold, pretty closed, pretty stoic” in their response to evangelistic outreach. Rather than push for someone to become a Christian, his goal is to help them transform their lives. A thirst and a hunger to know and to be known is what he sees most in college-age folks. It’s what he received from the Intervarsity community — four years of stable, reliable, and “undeniably good friendships.” In his eyes, doing what it takes to connect with people, so they know and are known is sharing the gospel. Recalling the community statistics CMYK compiled for the Lamentations series, Jake pointed out the number of problems in the local community. He believes the Kingdom of God and evangelism is found more when participating in righting those wrongs than in getting everyone to raise their hand at the end of the sermon on Sunday. “Anymore, I see evangelism as participating in the rectification of humanity.”
After finishing up his undergrad degree, Jake passed the grueling 4-5 hour Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist exam this summer. Jake has come by his interest in strength and conditioning naturally. In the early 1980’s, his father was one of the first people to get a CSCS certification by a new organization called the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The certification made him the first licensed strength and conditioning professional in Billings.
Jake has now moved on to a new town and a new chapter in life. In August, the previously indifferent high school student embarked on a master’s degree at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. His strength and conditioning degree program has dual trajectories: practical and research. He’s excited about working with a local high school and the Army’s 10th Special Forces at nearby Fort Carson, but equally energized about advocating for the value and use of research among strength and conditioning professionals. Joining the UCCS Intervarsity chapter is an additional high point, with fresh opportunities and challenges. A friend and mentor is on staff in a nearby town, so he’s got a jump-start on connecting.
Jumping into a new world stretches links to family and friends, and it’s no different for Jake. Most notably, his girlfriend is still in Billings. When asked what he’s celebrating right now, he lists his new CSCS certification, his group of close friends, and Marina. Jake and Marina have been dating for almost a year and he describes the relationship with a single world, incredible. A California native, Marina is studying business and art at Rocky Mountain College. Both expect to graduate in 2020. It’s painful to be separated. Yet, Jake knows from his studies that discipline and some amount of pain build physical strength and stamina. Whether instinctively or intentionally, he seems to recognize relationships are no different.
[Jake Bone has been a CMYK Regular for a while now. We miss him at our gatherings, but are excited for him as he starts this new phase of life. We look forward to the next time we meet up and can hear what he’s learning.]