Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Drop and Give Me Twenty

What’s wrong with me? I love to exercise—love to get my body in motion, love challenging myself to see what I can do, love running and jumping and lifting and pushing and pulling. Just love it. L-O-V-E it! For me, exercise is not a chore; it’s a vacation. It’s not work; it’s recess. So am I crazy? My wife thinks so. A friend of mine said that exercise is my crack-cocaine. Okay, maybe I do go a bit overboard. And I can’t say about my exercise what President Clinton said about his experiment with marijuana: “I didn’t inhale.” I inhale a lot. Most of the stuff I do can take your breath away. But I love it anyway. Always have. I took gym every year in high school. I have played sports my whole life long. I have had lengthy eras of running and weight-lifting. And in the last three years I discovered more fun stuff with names like Boot Camp and Pilates and Kick-boxing and Spin and P90X. I just ordered my next home workout to go along with everything I already do at the gym. It’s called … are you ready for this … Insanity. My wife says it fits.

I realize that puts me in the minority. Most people I know don’t much like exercise unless it’s working on their grip while holding a remote, walking to the kitchen to get some more chips, or working that tricep/bicep exercise of moving the fork from plate to mouth and back again. Some folks act as if exercise is a four-letter-word. They don’t like exercise because it makes the ice jump out of their glass. They say things like, “I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.” Another exercise-detractor made this point: “My grandmother started walking when she turned 60. She’s now 97 and we don’t know where the heck she is.” There are people, probably most people, who just don’t much like exercise. They like to remind us that the primary benefit of exercise is that you die healthier. And I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that I have sometimes wondered that if ever I was stricken with cancer, the doctor might say something like this to my family: "Poor guy, if he didn't have such a strong heart he wouldn't have to suffer for so long." Exercise or not—we're all going to die sometime. But, Lord willing, I'm going to go out in decent shape.

So what’s wrong with me? I suspect a psychologist could have a field day sorting out whatever’s going on inside my twisted little head that makes me an exercise junkie. Did I hate my parents? I had issues with them but I sure didn’t hate them. Do I feel the need to prove myself? Well, I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to be 53-years-old and work much younger people into the ground. Hmmm, sinful pride? Perhaps. As you can see, I’ve thought a lot about this.

Being a pastor, I could try to spiritualize my love of exercise. Paul did write that for a believer the body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God” (1 Cor. 6:19). I just want to keep the body God gave me in good shape, want to treat the home of the Holy Spirit more like a temple than a tenement, more like a great cathedral than a garbage can. But then again, Paul also writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). So I better be sure in my passion for exercise that I don’t neglect passion for God and the care of my soul. I don’t neglect such things. Yet what I’ve discovered is that for me, exercise has become a sort of spiritual discipline—a practice in which I connect with God. You won’t find exercise listed in anything Richard Foster or Dallas Willard write about the spiritual disciplines, but it’s become a spiritual discipline for me. Olympic gold-medal winner and devoted Christian Eric Liddle of Chariots of Fire fame said this about his running: “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Somehow, some way, and odd as it may sound, when someone says, “Drop and give me twenty,” I feel God’s pleasure too.

Now, if I could just feel God’s pleasure in saying no to chocolate chip cookies …. But that’s another blog.

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