Gymnastics and the Kingdom of God Part 3

10 10 2008

From the 9th grade until my senior year in high school, I lived, ate, drank, and dreamed gymnastics.  I was as crazy as my coach.  He was a fanatic about perfection in every routine that we worked so tirelessly to execute.  His disease for perfection and winning rubbed off on me.  Gymnastics was all that I thought about during the day and it was my last fleeting thought at night.  I imagined and dreamed gymnastics glory.  I could see in my mind the perfect catch and release on high bar, the flawless dismount off of rings, and the smoothly timed execution of a highly difficult trick in a floor exercise routine.  But such visions of perfection were not to remain just in my head.  They had to be worked out in my experience.  It took daily training.

Each day after class was a discipline of rigorous mental and physical training.  The constant pressures to improve were pressed into every movement and decision at practice.  The physical pain of breaking down the body to exert greater strength and flexibility was matched only by the mental anxiety of cerebral self control in learning a new “trick” (a gymnastics term used for the particular maneuver on an apparatus).  I came home at night with both my body aching and my mind exhausted from the day’s work out.

I can so vividly recall jumping up to grab the rings to perform yet another attempt at a difficult trick.  I had failed on every attempt.  I had fallen off the rings several times, coming close to major injury twice.  And as I jumped to grasp hold of the rings yet another time, I felt a warm tingling sensation on my arms—from my hands to my elbows, streams of blood were rolling down like rivers across my arms.  The blood flowed freely from the calluses in my hands that were  torn and ripped.  It was a vivid reminder of the price to be paid for gold.

Yet the end product was a flawless routine.  The pain paid off.  The blood wiped off, and the victories came.  The price was worth the admission to perfection. 

The roar of the crowd would dissipate.  But the sense of self accomplishment was a deep confidence and satisfaction that all the work, practice, and struggle had been worth it.  This goal being temperal; it prepared me to understand the uniqueness of seeking God for an eternal goal.

The Apostle Paul, in talking about his zeal for an eternal crown, said it this way,  “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)  Paul is comparing the runner to the Christian.  His challenge to the Corinthians is that every runner, who really runs, runs for victory.  And every runner who cares about winning, must discipline his body with training in order to get the advantage.  And so it is for the follower of Christ.  We “fight” he says in order to win!

Fighting to win?  That’s what Paul says.  We must fight, we must run with a holy pursuit that brings our life into subjection to a higher good, a higher passion.  The Christ follower is a passionate fighter for the imperishable gold—the victory that is awarded by Christ at the culmination of a life well lived.

Like the runner who runs daily to prepare his legs and heart for the coming competition.  Like myself, with blood running down my arms, the Jesus disciple must learn to be “temperate in all things” and train in such a way that he or she may attain the glory of God.   

We are disciples!  Fighting disciples.  A disciple by his or her very character is a disciplined follower.  As disciples of Christ, we are passionate seekers and finders of the kingdom of God.  We have found the kingdom through giving our heart to Jesus.  Simultaneously, we are lifelong seekers of Jesus that never completely arrive in our full knowledge of His marvelous, unending, and ever exploding wisdom and love!  As we choose to seek God, discipline is involved.

As a gymnast I had to leave behind certain activities to obtain a higher goal.  I had to give up, quit, and not even look at certain things—foods, drugs, and drink—because I needed my body to be in the best condition possible.  It was the only route to the winners stand.  As a disciplined seeker of God, I have to temper my appetites, my activities, and my passions for the higher calling.  And it is a constant fight, yes a real fight.

Today, I’m in a hotel room taking a day to fast and pray and seek the Lord.  I do this every month; I steal myself away from work, family, and the constant busyness of my life.  I pull away and pray.  I get real quiet and listen.  I read God’s Word for hours.  I put the activity and “go” of my life on “pause”.  Yet, I push “play” in going after God!  But I can’t push “play” on one track, if I don’t push “pause” on another.  Discipline is like that.  To go for God, we have to say no to other stuff.  I am talking about “go” and “no.”  There are certain things in our lives that just can’t go unless we choose no.

Look at your life today.  What are those activities, choices, attitudes, and even relationships that are hindering your becoming a passionate disciple of Jesus and His kingdom?  Are their lower feelings blocking the higher passions?  Are there relationships hindering The relationship?  All of us who really want to know Christ must ask these question continually.  We all tend to drift off the mark.  We all tend to shift our focus and miss God’s deeper work in our hearts.

So, let me challenge you to “no” and “go.”  Say no to three things today that are hindering your zealous pursuit of God and His kingdom!  Don’t hesitate.  Don’t second guess.  Jump up on the rings of your life and train yourself for the higher joy, the deeper love, and the greater cause.  There is a gold awaiting you—yes, it is the gold that Jesus will present to you personally.  That’s a victory worth living for.  Say no and then go!