A Spiritual Workout (or Why I No Longer Wish to be an Obese Christian)
It has been said, “You are what you eat.” I am pretty sure that is true. Not just physically, but spiritually as well.
There are basically two ways to dramatically improve physical health: eat foods that are good for your body and exercise regularly.
If I would simply incorporate those two strategies into my life, I would be guaranteed to lose weight, increase my energy level, and feel a whole lot better about myself.
The problem is that I like to eat things that are not good for my body and I don’t like to exercise.
Therein lies the problem.
So I have two choices: continue to live the way I’m living or do the hard work of making the changes necessary so that I can live differently.
The key words in the latter option are “hard work.”
It will take work to change my unhealthy eating patterns, and it will take work to get off the couch and do something physical that is going to raise my heart rate enough to burn calories.
I believe this principle applies to our spiritual lives as well as our physical lives.
If we are not careful we can become overweight, apathetic Christians.
We have been conditioned to feast on the words of the pastor, our Sunday school teachers, and our small group leaders. We are more informed than ever before, and yet the primary complaint of many churchgoers is “I’m not being fed.”
We are followers of Christ – little Christ’s. Is “being fed” the best we can do? Or is there perhaps a workout routine that we can implement in our spiritual lives that can help us to become healthier and perhaps even live the kinds of lives we were created to live?
I think there is.
I have a new routine that I recently started that I want to share with you free of charge!
Our diets must change or we are going to end up with spiritual diabetes and ultimately die spiritually altogether. The Bible encourages us in a variety of places to essentially “feast on the Word.” Ezekiel (Ez. 13.1-3), Jeremiah (Jer. 15.16) and John the Revelator (Rev. 10.9) were all commanded to “eat the scroll.” Ingest the Word of God. This is quite a bit different than simply nibbling on the Scriptures now and again; or even worse, being spoon fed the text by a teacher or preacher. We are called to absorb God’s Word in such a way that it permeates our lives: it literally lives in and through us. God’s Word is an amazing Story which continues to unfold and we are called to live into it. The only way to do this is to become a part of it, and to allow it to become a part of us.
One strategy that I have recently been reintroduced to and intend to begin implementing into my daily workout routine is the ancient practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio is a four-part practice of listening and responding to the Scriptural text in such a way that the Word literally infuses us.
Lectio: Read. Read a selected passage of Scripture (how you choose what to read is not terribly important. What is important is that you read, and that you read only a few verses; longer passages are harder to absorb all at once). Re-read the passage several times focusing on specific words or phrases that stand out to you.
Meditatio: Listen. Listen to the Spirit speak to you through these words that you have been reading. Quietly reflect on the Story. What is God trying to say to you through these words?
Oratio: Speak. Begin praying about what you are hearing. Talk to the Lord about these words, this Story. Ask questions. Communicate your thoughts and feelings. Has this passage brought up any particular emotions, questions etc.?
Contemplativo: Respond. What have you heard the Lord say through these words? Are you being challenged to do something? The Word typically calls us to respond in some way. Perhaps it’s a personal action you are being called to take; perhaps it’s a social action or a relational action. Whatever it is, make sure to do what you are being challenged to do.
Perhaps one of the hardest things that we are called to do as Christians is to pray. We know we should do it, but so often we just don’t. I Thessalonians 5.17 actually commands us to “pray continuously.” In order to do this we have to redefine what it means to be a spiritual person. Most of us compartmentalize our lives so that we are spiritual people during certain times of the week (usually when we are at church or in some kind of church-sponsored event); relational people, business people, social people, etc. at other times of the week. A major adjustment that we can make to our lives involves seeing ourselves as spiritual people “all the time!” This is what is called a holistic view of existence. Our lives were never intended to be compartmentalized. We are called to be spiritual people wherever we are and while we are doing whatever we are doing. This shift enables us to be people who can – in fact – pray continuously. Our minds and hearts are attuned to God’s Spirit because we believe that God’s Spirit is actually with us at all times. Of course, we want to set aside time for quiet, reflective prayer as well, but being people who pray continuously allows us to be healthier people.
Jesus was very clear that healthy followers of His would be people of love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13.34-35). James was just as emphatic about the fact that simple faith without deeds (definition: love) is dead (James 2.26). Love is active. Love gets us up off the couch of lethargy and complacency and gets our heart rate up. We start burning all the excess fat we have packed on by allowing ourselves to become Dead Sea Christians (the Dead Sea is a body of water in Israel that the Jordan River empties in to, but has no outlet. As a result, nothing can survive in the Dead Sea. It constantly takes and never gives) Love, by very definition sacrifices and initiates; it is spiritual calisthenics for our soul.
Eat, Pray, Love, Repeat.
If we can begin implementing these three practices into our spiritual routine, I guarantee we will begin to see instant results.
Jesus promised that we could have abundant life here and now (John 10.10) but it is going to require some hard work.
Are you ready to do whatever it takes?
Let’s get started!