Points to Ponder: Going Nowhere? Sometimes That's the Place to Be
Points to Ponder
Going Nowhere? Sometimes That's the Place to Be
I take a "Spin Class" at the local fitness center! I am on a stationary bicycle among row of others in like position, facing an instructor on her own cycle. To the beat of whatever song is playing, she has us spinning the pedals faster or increasing our resistance. We "climb hills" by going heavier and we stand to pump our way up that imaginary incline.
One weekend I had just ridden 150 miles in the MS (multiple sclerosis) 150 Bike Tour. Our team rode to raise money for a good cause. We pumped up real hills, in real wind and even rain, and we spent seven hours on our bikes on Saturday and four more on Sunday. Yet, when I take this 45 minute spin class, the imaginary hills seem harder to climb, and those 45 minutes feel more grueling at times, than the seven hours a few days earlier.
I was pondering that point as sweat ran into my eyes and I biked my heart out, going no where. Ah - that was it! We were not going anywhere. We could see ourselves in the mirror, pushing our bodies, following the instructor's lead, and hoping for that infernal song to end soon. I like the challenge and the results I gain physically from the class, but there is a level of difficulty to it that is different.
I have ridden thousands of road miles on my bicycle in all kinds of weather; but the Spin Class, regardless of my fitness level, is tough. It is actually easier in terms of real physical effort, but the lack of perceivable progress (passing scenery, mile markers, etc.) and the absence of a destination to arrive at, makes the moment by moment exertion much more difficult that it REALLY IS. Stop and ponder that thought for a minute.
Do you think that is why keeping a daily devotional time seems so hard? Do you think that is why your Bible remains closed day after day? You should read it, but it just never gets done.
When we say "I do not know how to pray" or "I do not understand the Bible", or "I can not get into the Sunday School routine," etc. aren't we really saying that the moment by moment "spinning" which these things require is uncomfortably difficult? Not actually HARD, just difficult in a different way.
Let me return to the ideas of "perceivable progress" and a "final destination" Just as it is tough to ride a bike that does not go anywhere, it is tough to get into spiritual work outs that seem to require a lot of effort while (as you look at day to day life) they do not seem to change the circumstances of a day or deliver immediate "progress" reports as you go. Seems that way. You have survived with them or without them, as do thousands of active, good Christian people whom you know. But I take the Spin Class because I have come to like it. What I like exceeds the internal resistance I feel about showing up. I like the results I achieve. The discipline of committing to do it is as much, if not more, valuable to me than actually doing the class.
Paul speaks in I Corinthians 9:24-27 about running the race to win and maintaining self-control in all areas of life so that one can perform at one's best. Of course he is talking about the spiritual race of living the Christian life. But one has a difficult time being spiritually disciplined if one has not disciplined the vessel in which that spirit resides. "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection..." (v27), Paul says. I have found that the early morning discipline of exercise (whether I want to do it or not) helps me bring the rest of my day into balance and order to a greater extent than it would be without that routine. I listen to sermons on the radio, tapes on leadership, and I talk to God as I keep my body occupied with the routine for that morning.
The spiritual discipline of Bible Study, prayer, and quiet time are difficult to do; however, they are rarely beyond your ability. You COULD do it even if you feel that internal resistance to just get started.
As I reflect on areas of growth in my life and in my relationship with the Lord, I have found that the path of least resistance usually turned out to be, at best, a disappointment or at worst a total waste of time. When I faced the more challenging things and decided to do what I ought to do (like it or not), I came out on the other side of the experience blessed. In the midst of a struggle or the work of bringing my body (my life) into subjection, I did not see "perceivable progress," nor did I observe a destination up ahead. But later on, when I looked back, it was all there all along.
In the early days of my Christian walk, I leaned on Paul's words in Philippians. From a cold, smelly jail he writes in verses 12b-13: "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."
To will and to do...those are the words I formed into a prayer. I asked God to give me the "want to to want to"--to work within me the will, the desire to do the harder right. I needed a change in my will, so that the outcome of my daily priorities, values, and choices would follow a more Christ-like pattern. A lot of the time this did and still does require a lot of "spinning," and seeming to go nowhere. But the effort has never been a waste. God always redeems the time and at some point reveals both the progress along the way and the destination that is yet to come.
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