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Spiritual Training Cycle: Examination (wk. 3/13)

The annual CrossFit Open finished up last month. Athletes around the world all competed by doing the same workouts in their respective gyms over a three-week span. This year’s final workout included wall-walks. Wall-walks are particularly challenging for me. With a chronic low-grade lower back inflammation along with always-tight shoulders, getting flexible enough to do a good wall-walk is very hard for me. So, I did the scaled option that enabled me to modify some of this workout. My (younger and much fitter) friend David counted my reps and kept an eye on the clock during my workout.

To be honest, I didn’t do very well in the workout. I traveled the prior week. Not only did I skip my training while on the road, my eating and sleep habits were less than ideal. As a result, my performance had a few extra challenges.

My friend David didn’t care about my challenges And yet, David – and the rest of the athletes who had gone earlier and were now cheering for me – didn’t focus on my unexpected challenges. They cheered for me as I accomplished what work I could.

This reminded me of what a healthy fitness community is all about: encouragement and support. David saw my lack of conditioning yet remained encouraging about what I could do, not what I couldn’t do. He and my fellow athletes all do this with one another: we accept each other where we are and challenge one another to move forward.

If I’m being honest, there are times I “shave” some of my workouts. A 30-second hang becomes a 27-second hang. 12 calories on the assault bike ends up being 10.5 calories. 15 kettlebell swings turn into 14 kettlebell swings. But during this Open workout, I had another challenge – David. He was right there, counting and timing. No “shaving” allowed. Sometimes the challenge is not just what you do, it’s also what you hide from doing.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’” – Genesis 3:8-10, ESV

In Genesis chapter 3, Adam and Eve miss the mark. Their choices are driven by their own selfish wants and desires which went against the grain of God. We call this sin. God’s first response to Adam and Eve was not, “What did you do?” – Instead, it was, “Where are you?” - while their actions were wrong, their hiddenness was what God challenged.

Our human nature presents challenges.

If you look closely at Jesus and the people He interacted with, you’ll see He spent a lot of time with sinners and the less-desirable elements of ancient Jewish society. Jesus embraced their challenges and loved them as they were. The people who frustrated Him who those who hid their sin behind big titles or self-righteousness. God knows that sometimes your choices can be a challenge for you. But He doesn’t let those choices define you. Rather, through a process of confession and repentance, He uses those choices to refine you.

In a healthy culture, like the one in my gym, the same process happens. When I choose to do things like eat poorly or train inconsistently, I don’t have to hide those choices out of fear of shame or guilt or persecution. Instead, I confess them to my coach and my friends where I’m met with love and accepted as I am. Over time, I may make better choices and be celebrated for the results. But the encouragement and support, the love, remains consistent even when I don’t choose what’s best for me. Don’t let the weight of your poor choices define you. Allow the love of God to work through those choices to refine you. That’s the real challenge.

Questions for reflection: Where have you tried to cut corners at times?

Where do you need to be more honest with yourself?

What’s keeping you from transparency with God?

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