Wednesday, August 06, 2008

going to church is like training on a treadmill

A little while back I mentioned I've started training for a 15K race. At the time, I was running on a treadmill. Actually, I was running a little and walking a lot, but the point is I was training on a treadmill. Then RL decided to start working harder on getting into shape and started walking. He was in sunny California and I'm sure he was mostly motivated by the desire to lose weight than the the beach babes on the Strand. But, anyway, when he got back home we determined to walk together in the evenings. Once the heat and humidity began to rise, I talked him into going for our walk/runs in the morning. To my astonishment, he agreed and we started leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays (Saturdays we don't run until 8 a.m.). And we did real well for several weeks. Then one Thursday morning RL just would not get out of bed. I was disappointed, but decided I would go ahead and run on the treadmill. I mean, I was up and dressed anyway.

I stepped onto the treadmill, turned up the speed, and started running. After a couple of minutes I turned up the speed again. Then again. I was going much faster than I had been able to before we started running on the street and I thought, "Wow! I've made a lot more progress on the street than I did when I was only running on the treadmill!" Then I thought (because when I'm running I tend to do a lot of thinking) that's kind of how it is going to church. The real progress we make in our Christian life is when we're out on the streets, living our faith in front of the world, instead of dressing up and putting on a smile in front of a bunch other Christians.

Now, I'm not pointing any fingers here. I'm confessing something about myself, something I realize is true about me. But think about it: How often do we go to church on Sunday (or whatever day you go) and think we've had a good workout and we're in good shape? We even cross-train and pray, read the Bible, teach a class or sing in the choir. But, really, does any of that really build the muscle we need to run the real race? How does any of that really work out our faith? How does any of that reveal Christ to people in our day-to-day lives, except to puff out our chests and say, "Look at me, I'm a good Christian; I go to church all the time." It's out on the street, out with other people, in their lives that we get the really good workout; when we learn to use the faith muscles we didn't even know we had. It's at work, in traffic, even sometimes with our own family members that we discover our weak areas and what we need to work on. We can't build the kind of muscle it takes to love unlovely people if all we do is hang out with the shapely people in God's gym.

But, thankfully, I'm a work in progress and, I know, I've got a lot more training to do. It's just that, now, I'm more aware of the fact that living out my faith is the real work out. Going to church is just running on a treadmill.


for a different kind of girl said...

Great analogy. I'm very often ready to take off on that race when the starter gun goes off on Sunday. Not every Sunday, but the vast majority of them. Quite often, I can keep up that intensity through the week, but I know I am not perhaps living my life as a true example of my faith all the time. I want to, but something strikes me, or I find that it remains difficult to ask where someone is in their walk as a means of offering up the chance to talk about where I am and where they could begin or grow. Some workouts, so to speak, just go stronger than others. The wonderful gift is the chance to keep dusting off and trying again.

Jeff said...

Too often, it seems, church people get the idea that Sunday is the "God Day" and never do much of a workout any other time.

But, even on a treadmill, if you only workout once a week, you spend most of the rest of your week sore and out of sorts. That pretty much describes a lot of Christians I know.

Desmond Jones said...

Wonderful point, Phyllis - it's out where we live every day that our spiritual 'muscles' get developed. Dealing with 'hard, obstinate and undisciplined' people (in the words of Thomas a Kempis). Or, what Jesus said about dealing with people who treat you well, as opposed to those who treat you badly (ref. Luke 6:32-34).

Mother Theresa said it very starkly when she said that there is no spiritual growth without suffering. . . Dang it, I wish it were otherwise, but my experience tells me she's right on target. . .

Buttafly32681 said...

I LOVED this post. It rings true in our household- and we're works in progress as well..
I enjoyed reading this!

FTN said...

First of all, anyone that gets up at 5 AM to go running should be shot.

Secondly, what you say is very true. I personally struggle with the fact that nearly all of the people I hang out with are the "church" people. No, we're not hanging out AT church -- we're in each other's homes and other places -- but it would still do me well to get outside of that box once in awhile.

Cocotte said...

I thought this post was going to be about how good you feel after going to church - like you do after exercising - you force yourself to do it sometimes, but are glad afterwards. But I like what you said a lot better!

luke said...

maybe an interesting extension of the metaphor ... ?

a personal trainer friend of mine recently reminded me to crank up the "angle" when running on a treadmill. the momentum of the moving track under your feet lessens inertia and makes it easier than running outside on the street.

wonder how similar that concept of momentum applies to us when we're in church? wonder if we can increase the difficulty of our church outings so that they could train just as well as when we're out there on the streets?