I started a 30-day Boot Camp Challenge last week. We meet at 5:30 in the morning. Already these two things mean there are two strikes against me. I have not exactly been what you would call “intensely active” the last couple of years, and I have NEVER been a morning person. But God has been continuously convicting me of the fact that my inside and my outside need to match; consistent, healthy discipline of my body is a reflection not only on me, but on my God. And if I stand before people and claim to teach His Word, I need to represent Him to the best of my ability, mind, body and spirit.
So off to Boot Camp I go to kick start myself from “Fat Former Athlete” to “Healthy for Jesus”. It was a rough start. Our instructor’s name is Bill, and I call him Boot Camp Bill (in my head, of course; I make up stories all of the time) because it reminds me of Bootstrap Bill on Pirates of the Caribbean and I need to think of things I like when I work out that early in the morning. But that’s another story for another day. Anyway, Boot Camp Bill comes by my station the other day to encourage me while on the Bosu ball. He wants me to do squat jumps on the Bosu ball. First time through, I just wanted to stand on the Bosu Ball. But on the second set I had the form and technique down and was keeping up pretty well. In his attempt to encourage me he said, “I am so impressed with how quickly you’ve caught on! Usually, people’s first day is really rough; there might just be an athlete in there yet!”
What he meant as a word of encouragement crushed me. Then it just made me mad. “MIGHT BE AN ATHLETE?!?” I thought. I wanted to say, “Yes sir, I did cross training programs like this when I trained in the same boat house as the ’96 US Olympic Rowing Team.” Or, “We did circuit training like this every summer I was in high school and we went to the state tournament in basketball.” My self-righteous anger wanted to get off that Bosu ball and show him an athletic thing or two.
But as quickly as I wanted to Bosu him, the Holy Spirit prompted me with a sobering and convicting question: “Bekah, what about you, at this very minute, would suggest to this man that you’ve ever been an athlete?” I started thinking, “Well, I have on college-issued workout clothes, I have on good running shoes, I’m here with two girls I coach with. Heck, I’m here. What non-athlete is going to think working out at 5:30am is a good plan?” Only showing up at 5:30 am had even a hint of “athlete” to anything of who I am right now. So once upon a time I was a competitive athlete? Big deal that I used to work out. So I’m a coach? Big deal that I can tell other people how to play a game. What about me, right now, says athlete? And the answer was, “Nothing.” Not one thing about my 65 pound overweight, struggling to keep up body screamed “Here’s an athlete!” to Boot Camp Bill. So I decided that neither throwing the Bosu ball at him nor crying like a baby and quitting were good plans.
On the way home it hit me; it’s really easy to live the Christian life like I live the athlete’s life. It’s easy to wear the right clothes, say the right things, even teach others how to do it. We can go through the motions and look the part, but never actually live it out ourselves. We rest on the laurels of past spiritual accomplishments, all the while getting “fat and happy” on memories of the good old days when we were once mighty servants of Christ. When we’ve wandered away for a while, like I’ve wandered from the athlete’s lifestyle, and then the time comes that we actually step up and act like a Christian, our feelings get hurt when someone doesn’t expect it out of us. Or worse, they’re surprised to hear us say we are a Christian because our talk and our lives don’t match up at all. When people around us act surprised to hear that we were ever a faithfully walking Christian, we think to themselves, “See, I knew I wasn’t cut out for this Christian thing,” and we leave with nothing but the memories of what we were and the unfulfilled potential of what might have been.
But, contrary to what my current condition may indicate, I was once an athlete, and there’s still an athlete in there somewhere. So I didn’t get my feelings hurt and leave, never to return. In fact, I went back Tuesday and today, and I’m going back tomorrow. Because I know I’ve wandered away. I know I feel my best when I’m pushing myself to improve. And I am going to do those jump squats on that Bosu ball if it’s the last thing I do. And this morning when Boot Camp Bill came around to cheer us on he said, “You know this is hard, but you also know you can do it and you know to push yourself without me having to push you. I can see that athlete in you.” I smiled and just kept doing my squat-to-leg-kicks.
Going back taught me another spiritual lesson today; when we’ve wandered away and begin the crawl back, there is memory there that remembers what to do, and you get back in the swing of things if you just don’t give up. It will take a while for our words and our appearance to match, and some people may not believe it when they see it, but it’s never to late to come back and actually “do” Christianity for yourself. Once you start back doing things for yourself, praying, reading Scripture, confessing sin, praying with and for people, taking those stands for your faith; people are going to be surprised at first. But if you keep it up, you’ll see that flicker of former glory that never really left. The fire of the Holy Spirit never goes out; it just sometimes we just allow it to die down and smoulder.
So if you’ve wandered away, or just gotten happy with where you are and you sat down to enjoy your spiritual rewards a bit early, what do you need to do to get back on track? Are you the “fat former athlete” who’s grown content to look the part but not participate, or are you still faithfully training and running the race? If you’re ready to get back in the race, jump back in. Don’t let where you are now keep you from where you want to be, physically, mentally, or spiritually. We may wander away or just sit down and stop altogether, but we can always get back on track. Boot Camp Bill says so.