“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.” Ephesians 6:10
It was the summer of running and lifting weights. I was teaching public school music and after school some of the seventh and eighth graders would go down to the gym and wrestle. Those boys were strong! As the school year came to an end I decided I was going to spend the summer working out and bulking up. I increased the distance of my regular jogs. In the back of my mind I was toying with the idea of doing a marathon. One hot summer day I was out for a run and at about mile ten I began to re-think my goals. Do I really want to keep doing this for another sixteen miles?
Then, there were the weights I bought. I found a bench and brought the weights out to the garage. I would go out there and work out on a regular basis. I figured I could either “out-strong” those junior highschoolers or I would out run them. As July turned into August in my summer of training I came down with a very painful condition of kidney stones.
These days people don’t just “exercise”; they “cross train”. In fact, this extreme form of exertion is becoming more than popular. Some suggest it is routed in a deeper human need to struggle in order to deserve to survive. Some even suggest it has religious undercurrents to it.
“When I run on Sunday mornings,” writes Heather Havrilesky, “I pass seven packed, bustling fitness boutiques, and five nearly empty churches.”
“Forgetting what lies behind,” writes St. Paul, “and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14.)
Perhaps a mature spirituality is not for the faint of heart. If Paul is our only example we are certainly called to disciplines which could be characterized as “extreme”. But Paul also reminds us that “mature spirituality” can be boiled down to one thing: love. Let’s train to love each other as God has loved us.
Today, don’t shirk the hard work of spiritual discipline; but don’t give up because you can’t live up to the example of Paul. Love as you are able to love. Forgive as you can; refrain from judging others. Trust God and be looking for the presence of Christ in others. That would be enough.
Oh … and maybe go out for a jog – or at least a walk on this uncharacteristically warm October day!
A blessed Tuesday.