If I had to choose a preferred form of exercise, it would be a tie between two: walking with a good partner or playing racquetball. Sadly, it has been a long time since I’ve had access to a racquetball court, but over the years God has given me great walking partners. My husband is my absolute favorite. Before any idea of dating or marriage came to our minds, Doug and I enjoyed great walks (and racquetball games, for that matter) together. And that has continued through the years. God also blessed me with Joanna, Charlene, Rachel, Mary Ann, and now Karlyn.
I have thought about trying to pursue other forms of exercise. I have a Wii and use Active for exercise sometimes. It’s okay for when I have to be inside, but it’s still not my favorite. A lot of my friends have taken up jogging and running. And then there’s always swimming. But, while I can walk all day if need be, I can only jog for about two minutes before my endurance is shot. And swimming – well let’s just say my swimming endurance needs a lot of work, too.
The nice thing is that I don’t have to have endurance for all forms of physical exercise. As long as I can do something, I’m okay.
I think that same idea of endurance can be seen in our spiritual lives as well. Have you ever noticed how some people can have unshakable faith in one area of their life, but struggle when faced with even the smallest trial in another area? Or how some people can be so disciplined in one aspect of life while allowing something else to totally fall apart?
The difference between endurance in different forms of physical exercise and our application of spiritual disciplines is that the exercise is optional. Not optional altogether – I know exercise in some form is essential for my health. But, I don’t have to be good at running and swimming to maintain my health. Walking works.
Spiritually, however, we cannot surrender even one aspect of our disciplined lives to neglect. We cannot just say, “Oh, well, I’m good at having faith that God will take care of me in illness, but I guess I’ll always struggle in financial trials.” We can’t be satisfied with being disciplined with something like regular fasting while brushing off the fact that we cannot discipline ourselves to daily study and prayer.
Fortunately, God doesn’t expect us to do any of it alone. He has given His Holy Spirit to guide, train, teach, strengthen, and grow us. He knows the challenge is impossible apart from His strength. He knows that so many of these things are as unnatural to us as running is for me. But, He’s working to make it natural within us. Our job is to be diligent to work with Him, even on those things that are so difficult for us.
Meanwhile, I might work on the swimming endurance as the southern summer heat sets in and I need a cooler form of exercise. But, while I am stretching my muscles and endurance in all sorts of spiritual areas, I think I’ll still just leave the running to all my other friends.