Personal Trainer

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
Revelation 2:4-5a

My body is suffering from decades of (mostly) benign (mostly) neglect. If you are of a certain age, no doubt you can identify, but my particular disrepair is not just the natural decay of age. My back is crooked and fused, my shoulders don’t work, and my hips have been replaced. All before the age of 30. Still, I had settled into a complacent equilibrium. My body didn’t give me too much trouble, as long as I didn’t ask much (or anything) of it. For the most part, that seemed to work pretty well for me.

Now my daughter has this insane idea that we should dance at her wedding in a few months. We gave it a practice go at Christmas, and it wasn’t pretty. I realized just how painful and tiring it was for me to move in that way, and I decided that if I was going to pull this off, I would have to get much stronger. So I have been subjecting myself to the sadistic inclinations of a personal trainer, trying to work out the 5 work days of each week.

My body is not liking this new arrangement. Oh, the workouts are not too bad (although the trainer pushes me much harder than I would push myself). I sweat, and need to sit very still for a while after finishing, but I’ve always been pretty good about rallying to the cause, when a specific demand is made of me.

It’s what happens after that I’m talking about. I am suffering pains and general discomfort in places that I haven’t felt for many years. I wake up sore and tired. It’s not a specific pain associated with some particular exercise. Rather, it’s my body rebelling at the new discipline I am demanding of it. This whole idea of re-defining my body is shattering the complacent arrangement we had, and my body is letting me know in no uncertain terms that it does not approve.

It seems to me that the same thing is true spiritually. This world exerts forces that conspire to drag you away from God and his will. If you don’t actively struggle to “swim upstream”, then the current will carry you away. Like my disease that has gradually robbed me of my strength and mobility (is it really robbery when you sit and watch it happen?), life seduces us away from a passionate “first love” with busyness, responsibility, and amusement.

When God finally breaks through your complacency and you heed the call to live a godly life, many things have to change. We have a divine personal trainer in the Holy Spirit. He points out the exercises he wants us to do. But we have to agree and commit to the change. Often this change produces stress, as we are forced to break habit patterns and discard values that don’t line up with God’s purposes. We have the spiritual equivalent of “body aches”.

Like the children of Israel in the desert, we may even cry out to God, “Why did you take us out of Egypt where we had plenty to eat just to die out here in the desert?” In hindsight, the old life may even appear more attractive that it really was (did the Israelites forget so quickly that they were slaves in Egypt? Or had they just complacently accepted equilibrium?).

I am willingly enduring the pains and suffering that goes along with this new exercise pattern, because I love my daughter and want to honor her with a father-daughter wedding dance. Otherwise, I may never have broken the complacent equilibrium.

What is God calling you to change? Do you love him enough to endure the pain and the discipline required to accomplish that change?

What dreams we dream

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21

My family is sick of hearing about it. I have an obsession, and it’s a car. An electric car. No, it’s not one of those puny eco-gadgets that practically needs an extension cord dragging behind it. It’s a high-performance kick-you-in-the-back car. I want one so badly I can taste it. I dream of the day when I own my Tesla.

It all started a couple of years ago when my son asked me to take him to the car show in downtown Denver. We saw lots of cool cars, including a concept electric car (I think it was a Pontiac). Some time later, I decided to see what the state of the art was, so I googled “electric cars” and I found it. The Tesla Roadster. 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, 300 miles on a charge. Body by Lotus. What’s not to love. Oh, did I mention the $105,000 (US) price tag?

When I turned 50, my wife had a friend make a cake with a Roadster on it (probably the closest I’ll ever get). For a birthday present, my son gave me an “IOU one Tesla test drive”. I wasn’t sure that we would actually drive up to Boulder some day and drive one, but he pursued it and found a test-drive event in downtown Denver. Afterwards, my wife says we had goofy grins on our faces for days. It is literally the most fun I’ve ever had, anywhere. The only thing saving my marriage is that it’s too awkward for me to get in/out of the car, so I can’t seriously consider owning one.

Enter the Model S. Tesla is moving from the high-end, exclusive toy car market into the luxury sedan market. It has most of the specs of the Roadster with a form-factor more accommodating to my body. Except it doesn’t exist yet. But I have a plan. You see, my daughter will turn 16 in 3 years, at which time I’ll give her my Subaru and replace it with a Tesla. Three years may seem like a long time, but I can already see the day when I’m driving a high-performance all-electric car. If I can afford it.

So one day I started thinking. I look forward to this car. I dream about this car. I feel about it as if it is already a reality. But it’s just a car. Through the atoning death of Jesus, God promises me an eternity in his presence, free from the curse of sin, sickness, and death. I’m not exactly sure what that is like (I haven’t had a chance to test-drive eternity yet), but surely it’s better than a car.

The Bible reminds Christians that we are strangers and aliens in this world. It’s not our final destination. Home is a much better place than where we are now. Do you think about it? Do you dream about it? Is it practically real to you? If not, why not? Every time I fantasize about my new car (someday), I’m challenged to dream of my new home in the city whose designer and builder is God. Because even Tesla will pass away. But the Word of the Lord is eternal. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.