What images come to mind when we hear the word fitness? We may think of a gym, exercise, body conditioning, eating healthy foods, thinking clear thoughts, or acting fittingly (appropriately) in emotionally taxing circumstances. But fitness, as applied to our spiritual condition, has less to do with our human activity, and more to do with surrendering to the transformation (conditioning) God does in our heart.
Physical fitness is developed by conditioning the body to make its parts stronger. Spiritual fitness is just the opposite. It allows God to become stronger within us. It relinquishes the desire to be strong of our own doing, and allow the Holy Spirit to make us strong from the inside out. Acknowledging we are powerless to save ourselves in our most wretched human condition is the beginning of spiritual fitness. Receiving God’s ways of living (relinquishing our own ways), provides the strength to override our weakness, and is how we become fit (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
We must not confuse our spiritual condition with spiritual disciplines. Engaging in activity that attaches the word discipline to Bible reading, meditation, or prayer does not translate to fitness. I don’t mean to minimize the importance of practicing self-discipline, but the enormity of our need for divine intervention requires discipleship (following after Christ), not discipline of self.
A book that helps explore practicing inner transformation is Ruth H Barton’s Sacred Rhythms. She says, “… this structured arrangement of spiritual practices is referred to as “a rule of life.” A rule of life is a way of ordering our life around the values, practices and relationships that keep us open and available to God for the work of spiritual transformation that only God can bring about. Simply put, a rule of life provides structure and space for our growing.” We must learn and practice the disciplines for posturing our body, mind, and soul to receive spiritual nourishment from God (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23). However, we cannot confuse spiritual formations with spiritual fitness (presence-based relationship with Father God).
Spiritual fitness is motivated by our deepest longings for God. Desiring to intimately know, and be known by, God, produces far more valuable treasure than anything this world has to offer. A shapely body, big bank account, or powerful position is worthless in comparison to close connection with the God who created us and gives us our identity.
We are transformed like the caterpillar to butterfly. The caterpillar is connected to earth by gravity. It’s perspective is very limited. The butterfly on the other hand, though held to earth by gravity, is freed by overriding laws of aerodynamics to explore greater perspectives. In order for metamorphosis to take place, the caterpillar must cease to exist (as a caterpillar). It dies as it weaves a cocoon to prepare for transformation. So too our old assumptions held, conclusions drawn, opinions formed, judgments made, and beliefs obtained, must die and be surrendered to a higher law. The contents of the cocoon looks like a state of nothingness to the human eye. But from the hidden place the butterfly emerges. Without the cocoon, there is no butterfly.
This reminds me of a verse of Scripture the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians. Paul is describing the process of putting off an old way of life, and taking on a brand new existence when we choose to follow Christ. He says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ, in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).
God is the one who performs the miracle of transformation. Our “work” is to cooperate with the process. As we surrender the old, he creates the new. This morphing is to happen on a continual basis. The creepy crawler, caterpillar, worldly views, get transformed into heavenly, Christ-like, glorious views. Glory be to God. In the transformational, cocoon-like conditions of human life, the surface appearance may not be beautiful (and downright ugly sometimes), but the outcomes are worth the struggle.
As a follower of Christ, asking myself regularly questions like the following will keep on the path to spiritual fitness. What excess weight (behaviors not aligned with Gods ways as taught in Scripture) do I need to shed? What false assumptions may I be holding on to, that block my view of God, myself, and other people? What earth-bound views do I hold that need to be surrendered to God? What heavenly views does God want me to grab a hold of, and focus on, to upgrade my future? If I’m having trouble answering these questions, what am I going to do, or who am I going to seek help from, to get answers?
Blessings, and stay fit!
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry