2.14.2011

get in shape, girl!*

A friend recently pointed me towards a new column on a respected youth ministry site called "Muscular Christianity."

The author is a youth worker and fitness instructor. While these two things are not mutually exclusive from one another, they are not necessarily cohesive and candidates for conflation. Nevertheless, this author set about the task of creating a Christian ethic for physical fitness. According to the author, personal fitness is a matter of Christian obedience.

What are the grounds for such a claim? Jesus was fit. He writes, "There's absolutely no way a physically deficient man could've withstood the beating and the flogging He endured without passing out or dying prior to being hung on the cross." Christian fitness isn't about the person, it is a "kingdom enterprise." Exercising self-control over our bodies advertises the goodness of our faith and the Holy Spirit will give us power to do so.

While it is inarguable that there is an international crisis of overnutrition and obesity, I struggle to see how creating an ethic of working out and eating right will win hearts for the kingdom, even my own. Nevermind, we have no idea what Jesus looked like or that Jesus' divinity might have played a role in his ability to withstand torture.

This fusion of physical strength and prowess with spiritual fitness ignores the weakness metaphors throughout scripture and perpetuates the myth of the invincible Christian person. If one is only truly Christian if they are internally and externally perfect, muscular and invulnerable, a great number of us are in trouble.

I love to workout. I love to ride my bike. I love to run. They can be spiritual activities for me. They can even function as expressions of obedience to God. But it is not because Jesus was fit and it is not because I will proselytize with my body. It is because I am practicing stewardship and enjoyment of the body, metabolism, and capabilities that God has given me. Declaring the unfit (I cringe at the label!) to be disobedient places the societal paradigm of external perfection over top of the Christian paradigm for surrendering our lives to Christ.

Obedience is not a matter of working out and eating right. It is not a matter of reading the Bible every morning or doing the right thing every day. True obedience is setting aside my need to do the right thing in order to follow Christ. Guilt over cookies eaten and miles un-run is shed for joy in the Lord. All earthly standards of goodness are useless in the eyes of the Lord. This is my peace.  It is forever changing and teaching me.

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*The title for this post is swiped from one of my favorite obscure 1980s toy and exercise atrocities.



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This post is part of a synchroblog with writing friends. As they post, I will link to their writing. Please take some time to read their work: Wordshepherd, i write to be rid of things, nightsbrightdays, alishasharayah.

2.09.2011

tall people won't understand

Every short person knows this scene:

The coffee mugs are on the top shelf in the cabinet. The supply is depleted and the few remaining are just out of arm's reach. You can just barely touch one cup with your fingertip.  Ever so slightly you turn the mug, one fingertip's push at a time, until the handle turns to you. Then the cup is yours.  Tea awaits.

I'm in that fingertip pushing moment. Frustrated. Stretched. Maybe even slightly in pain. I know (at least I think I know) that the cup will turn and the handle will appear, but in this moment, the handle is out of reach, out of grasp, beyond my comprehension. Relief is a thing for the foolish.

But I am foolish. And determined.

May you be foolish and determined, too.

2.07.2011

the seduction of a lie

After class, a friend looked at me earnestly and said, "I'm scared I would have joined them. I'm not just scared, I'm almost convinced that I would have."

The "them" to which he referred is the Nazis.

Certainly, my first reaction is to assure him that there is no way that he would have joined them. He is a smart guy, thoughtful and compassionate. Surely, if found in the throes of genocidal regime, he would have resisted their propaganda. Surely, I would resist such a thing.

Yet, I'm not entirely convinced of this surety in myself or in him. Not because I don't think that we aren't smart, thoughtful, and compassionate. Our positive traits are not in question here. Rather, it is our inabilities, our failings, our crimes against our conscience that concern me. Can we resist the seduction of half-truths? Can we discern the truth in world of lies?

Eve and Adam fell prey to their inability to discern between truth and lie. They relied on what seemed to be most immediately true, but was in fact, the eternal lie. Their failure to discern and trust truth narrates my own failure. This failure expels me from the garden, expels me from right relationship with God, expels me from right relationship with others. Avoiding my failure, seeking to placate it with a bandage emblazoned with religious symbols, is a profane declaration of the impotency of my will.

Truth declares my impotency against the seduction of the world. Truth acknowledges my failure to live according to my ethic. Truth regularly, daily, momentarily reminds me that I am in continual need of something beyond myself to empower the discernment of the truth so desperately needed in so many places.

And yet, truth's primary work is not to expose my failures, but to supersede them. This truth goes beyond adherence to the facts and rests in all-encompassing love, wrenching discipline, and arresting faithfulness. Truth overcomes my infatuation with immediacy and perfection and changes me.  Truth, when trusted, reveals itself to be worthy of deeper and more faithful devotion. To seek truth is uproot lies from their bases and set forth a new pattern of living.

Perhaps my friend and I cannot be certain of what we would have done in a different era of tragic violence, but we are living in our own era of violence and lies in need of truthful, faithful action. Am I seeking truth with my mind, my heart, my hands, my debit card? Am I seeking truth with my time, my plans, my hopes?