Growing Pains

“I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! … I cry out to You; save me!”  Psalm 119:145a-146a (NLT)

Have you ever watched the parents of a young baby (or been one yourself) as they oversee their young one learn to roll over?  If so, then you know how hard it can be to watch your baby struggle over and over again in learning how to do things (like roll over, hold up her head, or begin to crawl).  To sit by and just watch as they struggle … all the while, resisting the urge to help them or do it for them.  It’s hard.

But we know that if we help them … if we rescue them from the discomfort of learning and achieving these milestones on their own … we ultimately handicap.  By rescuing them out of the struggle, we are actually doing them a disservice.

I was working with a chiropractor the other day whose practice actually centers around “undoing” these basic early movements we didn’t learn appropriately.  Perhaps our parents rescued us too frequently from our struggles, or perhaps we never learned to crawl, or perhaps we were rushed into certain stages too quickly.  Any of these have muscular and structural implications for our long-term well-being.  So, in many cases, we have to undo or relearn some very basic movements.

And all this makes me think of God.

In the Psalms, we watch David beg God to rescue him over and over.  Often today, people ask why God isn’t rescuing them or the world from a particular struggle.  Sometimes, I too wonder why I haven’t been rescued from certain struggles.

Maybe it is because God, in all His wisdom, knows that if He rescues us … He would actually be hurting us.  Maybe God, in all His love and kindness, actually restrains Himself from rescuing us … because He wants us to fully functioning more than He wants us to be temporarily relieved.  Maybe God, because He loves us so much, suffers with us through the growing pains … so that He can celebrate with us at a later date.

David seemed to know that only God was the Author of all that is true and just.  David’s trust in the Lord was unwavering, even when he wasn’t seeing God’s rescue.

So may yours be also … and mine … as we struggle through whatever growing pains the Lord allows.  “Be strong and take courage,” reminds David, “all you who put your hope in the Lord!  For He has shown His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 32:24, 21 (NLT))

 

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Unity

“You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:5 (NET)

Wholeness.  Personal wholeness.  Integration of our whole selves.  Complete alignment.  Internal harmony; external radiance.  We all want that, don’t we!?

And God wants it for us, too.

He made us for it.

To radiate His glory.  As image-bearers.

If asked to paraphrase Deuteronomy 6:5, I would say that God is asking us to love Him with everything that we are.  Inside & outside.  Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical — everything.  Or as Sarah Young writes: “I want to be Central in your entire being. “(See June 3, Jesus Calling).  Central in everything.  Every part, every aspect.

Of course, we will never achieve it perfectly on this side of life.  That’s why we need Jesus.  But we can aim for it.  We can strive towards it, knowing that every effort counts.  Knowing that God is cheering us on because He wants it for us too.  And if God is for us, who can be against us!?

To give God my heart.

To give God my mind.

To give God my body.

To give God everything.

Wholeness.  Unity.  Integration — within ourselves and with God.  To love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  To pursue peace — within and without — today and everyday.

Amen.

Aging

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate … for He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (NLT)

Lately I’ve become aware of the effects of aging. Some personally, some within my family, some in other people’s families. But with aging, there seems to come a number of issues that involve our bodies (& sometimes our minds). Our bodies begin to age and weaken and become increasingly susceptible.

So how are we to treat our aging bodies?

The answer might sound familiar: the same way Jesus would. We should treat our aging bodies the same way Jesus would treat our aging bodies — with love, tenderness, compassion & understanding.

God’s mercies are new every day … & so should ours be … even to ourselves.

Instead of comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do (5, 10, 20 years ago!?), assess who and where you are today & start from there.  If you used to bench-press 80 pounds and can only bench-press 20 today, so what!? Bench-press the 20 today! (Or maybe even 10 until you really know you have the muscle stamina.)

Our bodies are not machines.  They are delicate pieces of craftsmanship created by God. Think of them as Stradivarius violins:  of great worth, able to pay beautiful music … but you must learn how to play & care for it properly.

And if you are aging, think of yourself a an aging Stradivarius violin: still of great worth & still able to play beautiful music … and needing a bit more tender-loving care.

True Confessions

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Exodus 20:3 (NIV)

True confessions?  I am a fitness enthusiast.  I like working out and examining what I am eating and learning how to do both better. I enjoy learning about how God made the body and exploring how it responds.  I am enthralled by the potential God built into the body and rejoice when I see people discover the gift that God has given us in the body.

But the truth is that I am enthralled by God more.

With anything we love and hold dearly, there is always the danger that our love for it will supersede our love for God.  It’s a tension we must learn to navigate throughout our lives and about many different things.  It’s not that God wants us to love only Him and nothing else.  God made us to love, and He holds love above all other characteristics (see e.g., 1 Corinthians 13:13).  He wants us to love; loving people and ideals and is part of our DNA.  But one thing should always remain — that we love God more.  Whether it’s our kids, our spouse, our jobs, our life-calling, or whatever, it’s good to love those things … even to love them deeply … but we must love God more.

So as I examine myself, my heart and my loves, I return to this truth:  I love God more.  And I pray and I ask that He helps me keep all things in service to my love for Him.  That love for God is what fuels me and drives me and beckons me to everything else I love.  That love for God is what all my other loves point to.  That love for God and His glory remains my ultimate objective.

Yes, I am a fitness enthusiast.  But my ultimate objective is not health and fitness.  My ultimate objective is Christ-likeness.  May I never forget.  And may the pursuit of health always be within the greater context of loving and honoring and bringing glory to the One who made me.

An Incomplete Theology

“May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God ….”  2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT)

What concerns me about our view of God’s love is that it’s inconsistent.  We say one thing and yet often live contradictorally.  What I’ve learned at church is that God cares a lot about my soul, and that He even cares about my mind (what I allow to enter into my mind, what my thoughts dwell upon, etc.).  But what about my body?  I’ve heard next-to-nothing about how God views my body.  So what should I do with that?  Since I am a creature who is unquestionably part body (and mind and soul) … but I don’t know hear much about God caring about my body … then can I be certain that God cares about all of me?  On some very deep level, I fear that it leaves us wondering about the magnitude of God’s love. Is God fickle?  Does He love just certain parts of us?  Is His love conditional or partial?  Of course, our minds know that the Bible teaches differently.  Our minds know that the Bible teaches of God’s overwhelming, unconditional, engulfing and endless love for us; yet our practical theology, for the most part, is as if God is completely unconcerned with our bodies and how we interact with them.

I don’t believe that’s true.  I believe our theology is incomplete in that respect.  I believe the Bible teaches that God loves every one of us and every aspect of every one of us.  He is working to make all things new.  I believe God’s love engulfs every part of us (body, mind and soul) — that He is the Love that sees and embraces every aspect of ourselves.

He calls us to be better, yes … because He loves us.  He calls for our hearts and souls to be purer and more devoted to Him, for our minds to be more disciplined and focused on His purposes, and for our body to be more dedicated to Him as His temple.  Yes, the soul is of God’s highest concern because our souls are the part of us that lives forever.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care about our minds or bodies.  He gave them both to us, and He wants us to cherish and nourish and grow and strengthen and use all of us for His glory.

So let’s give all of us … all to Him.

Form First

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)

In exercise, form comes first. Whether you are an Olympic swimmer, a yoga guru or a weekend jogger, your form matters. It matters a lot. How you do your exercise — the motions and mechanics of your body movements — affects the results you receive (or fail to receive). Moreover, if your form is wrong, you can end up hurting yourself or someone else.

Take weight-lifting, for example. When you lift weights, form is paramount. Any decent trainer will tell you that. Correct form is more important than the amount of weight you lift, and correct form is more important than the number of repetitions done. Why? Because if your form is wrong, you not only fail to exercise the muscle group you desire to exercise, but you also run great risk of injuring yourself … or someone else.

And so it is with love. Love is paramount to followers of Jesus. Love comes first. If the things we do and the things we say are not rooted and grounded in love, then they can be harmful. If our practices — even seemingly good ones — are motivated by something other than love, after time we can end up hurting ourselves … or someone else. Just as we constantly check our form as we workout, we constantly need to check our motives and intentions. Are they based in love?

So the next time you are working out, pay attention to your form … and use it as an opportunity to consider the “form” of your heart.