This month I have been lifting weights with a couple of NFL Alumni. Well, mostly with one of them...a 6'5" 300-lb lineman. I look like his scrawny dad when we are walking around the gym from station to station. He has been kind enough to show me the ins and outs of his lifting regimen, which I have not done since High School football days. (I graduated in 1971.)
I joined them at the start of this year because I need the extra strength for my one big goal of summitting Mt. Rainier in August.
I have learned you grow stronger through lifting by literally tearing the muscle as you lift. As the muscle heals over the next 24-48 hours, it becomes stronger. Learning not to tear the muscle too much while increasing the weight is part of the practice. You also become stronger by covering all the muscle groups with a variety of motions. Soreness is also part of the strengthening process. If you are not sore, you are not lifting enough to improve. (There's a spiritual parallel in that truth!) Following the program and investing the effort have made a difference already.
In my book, A New Way of Living: practicing the Beatitudes everyday, I write about how spiritual exercises are intended to help those of us claiming to be Christ followers to get into shape--spiritual shape. I believe that, like physical exercise, spiritual exercise builds the muscle of our soul in order to live as God intended us to live. I also believe they must also be planned in advance, that they must become a priority at the expense of other commitments and that they are one of the key components in a life well-lived.
For example, I write,
Part of any well developed exercise program pays attention to what is consumed. This is equally true physically and spiritually. Just as optimal health and fitness require a keen eye overseeing what we eat, spiritual health is also tremendously impacted by what we place in our heart, our mind, and our soul. When we want to know which foods are most beneficial regarding fitness, we turn to a nutritionist...When we want to know which principles to follow in pursuit of spiritual wellness, [we turn to] Christ's own words. (52)
Physical exercise--lifting weights regularly in a predetermined program, for example--will change my body and improve my health. Spiritual exercise--reading the Bible regularly following a predetermined program, for example--will change my heart and how I think.
Our culture is obsessed with physical wellness. Why not turn some of that obsession toward caring for your soul?
Interested? Here's a place to start:
What physical exercise(s) do you do? Walking, cycling, running, aerobic classes...
What spiritual exercise(s) do you do? Reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, solitude...Write out a plan to improve your physical and spiritual wellness today. List one exercise you will do daily this week to get you started.
Next week we will begin to walk through the Beatitudes to see how they serve as both a benchmark and goal of our relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and what spiritual exercises can enhance that part of our relationship with God.
You can read a sample chapter from the book here.