Spiritual Condition and the Analogy of Physical Fitness

In my previous post, “Naming Our Own Spiritual Condition,” I talked about spiritual condition in terms of our ability to help accomplish God’s purposes. In this post, through the use of physical fitness as an analogy, I offer some elements of spiritual condition and contend that one of them affects all the others. Using a physical fitness framework is limiting, but I hope that it might also be helpful.

Art used by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. http://www.revelationillustrated.com

Art used by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. http://www.revelationillustrated.com

I believe that one’s spiritual condition can be thought of as the fitness of one’s spiritual body and the extent to which it is free to operate in daily life. When we are spiritually fit, we perceive, respond to and accomplish the purpose that God has given us with ease and confidence. When we are less fit, we misperceive what we are called to do, try to speed up or slow down down the process, or approach it using means that will limit or derail the outcome.

Prior to assisting with the redemption of the world, we need to have moved through some preliminary conditions. In particular, we need to have become aware of, open to and able to receive Spirit. Also, we need to have assented to be changed by God. I believe that once a person has become willing to be changed, the quality of one’s spiritual condition influences how the relationship and work will proceed.

How well a person engages in or accomplishes a physical activity is likely influenced by their physical fitness. A personal training website lists eleven components of physical fitness. As you read the list, imagine yourself or another person engaged in a sport (e.g., football, gymnastics) or physical activity (e.g., cooking, repairing a car).

1. Agility – The ability to stop, start, and change directions quickly
2. Balance – Controlling body positions while standing still or moving
3. Body Composition – The ratio of muscle to fat in the body
4. Cardiovascular Endurance – Engaging in physical activity for long periods of time
5. Coordination – Making movements work together smoothly
6. Flexibility – Moving joints through a wide range of motion
7. Muscular Endurance – Using muscles repetitively without fatiguing
8. Muscular Strength – Produces force using muscles
9. Power – The ability to use muscle strength quickly
10. Reaction Time – How quickly an individual responds to a stimulus
11. Speed – Performing a movement of covering a distance in a short period of time

When you are finished, review the list again thinking about how these elements might or have come into play in your response to a call or leading. You might focus on a single incident or a life-long endeavor.

A single incident might be speaking in meeting. Have you spoken in Meeting then later learned that the message was for you or should have been spoken by another? Have you found that you might get more than one message and that one may be for you and the other for the Meeting?

A life-long endeavor might be your following a leading. What have you learned about your ability to carry out the leading? What have you discerned about yourself given your times of obedience and your times of getting off the path?

Whether for single incidents or for life-long endeavors, I believe body composition (#3) affects all of the other elements. When doing a physical activity, if a person carries a lot of fat, they will have difficulty with balancing and coordination and limited speed. If a person has little muscle, they will have little strength, power, or agility.

I believe the same is true in spiritual matters. Spiritual fat might be thought of as deposits in our spiritual body that weigh us down, limiting our ability to connect with or stay with Spirit. Spiritual muscle might be our ability to stay centered, aligning our will with God’s desire for us.

In my next post, I will discuss “naming” and how we can use it to change our “body composition.” Through naming, I believe we can release the weight of the world and come to find rest in God (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

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Christ Cannot be Caged

Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey….” (Exodus 3:7-8a)

Here in Cincinnati, God is observing the misery of God’s people, particularly those who suffer for others’ gain. God bears this suffering as He brings His sons and daughters into freedom. God will not rest until all Her children know they are loved, beyond measure, and that earth’s treasures are theirs.

After hearing that God was calling us to “name the spiritual condition of the world,” I wrote a blog post called “Becoming a Wilderness People.” In that post, I said:

I believe Friends are called to listen spiritually to those who are the most destitute in this country, primarily American Indians but also African Americans and other people who are marginalized and/or living in poverty, and to witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit within and among them. Then, through holding in the Light and reflecting upon what we see and hear, we will discern the spiritual condition of the world. Also, periodically, I believe we are to gather with each other, so that we might share what is revealed to us and together name the world’s condition. Finally, through speaking and writing about our experiences and insights, we will reveal the Truth to the Powers (see Colossians 1:16) so that they might find kinship with those who have been marginalized, thus breaking down the internal barriers that sustain the external forms of domination.

Since then, I have discerned that God is urging me, through and along with my Meeting, to set up a means through which we can live out this leading. I believe we are being called to create a mechanism through which we can befriend the people who have been harmed by the criminal justice system. God is encouraging us to see the criminal justice system for what it is and to create an alternative, a restorative justice system. Through the development of a restorative justice program, we will be enabled to listen to the people who have been harmed by the criminal justice system and to witness to what God is doing for them.

Currently, our criminal justice system ignores victims, discourages offenders, leaves families feeling powerless, and alienates the communities it intends to serve. It relies on argument, deceit, manipulation, and punishment to accomplish its ends. It’s a principality that cannot engender justice or propagate peace, as justice associates with truth, not deceit and manipulation, and peace is a state that arises through mercy rather than punishment.

God, through Christ, is redeeming this system that’s riddled with holes and tottering on stilts. He’s already put Christ in place as its cornerstone. We are being asked to come stand with Christ as He rebuilds it. May we find our place there and sing….

I will sing to the Lord, since he is highly exalted;
The Horses and Horsemen has he thrown down in the sea.
Of the Lord is my Power and Praise,
and of him is Preservation to me:
this is my God, and I will make him a Habitation;
the God of my Father, and I will extol him. (Exodus 15:1-2, NRSV)

Have you observed how God is leading you and/or your meeting to participate in this leading to “name the spiritual condition of the world?” If so, please post a comment.

Also, please pray for us as we attempt to follow our Guide.

Water in the Wilderness

This post is part of a series. The first post is Becoming a Wilderness People. The second is The God of Our Fathers.

I believe God is calling Friends to name the spiritual condition of the world. This is not new. This is our mandate. For centuries, Friends have been called to and have named the spiritual condition of the world. The challenge for us is to rediscover how to do that in this day and time.

We live in the American Empire, a country which has more completely centralized wealth and power than any other. As a superpower, we have come to believe that we can ‘take what we want’ from every other country in the world. We have and we do, via coercive or violent means.

Ostensibly, Christianity is the religion of this Empire. But Jesus showed us what everlasting, even cosmic, influence looks like: friendship with the least of these. Therefore, to live with integrity in this Empire, we need to more fully come to be like Jesus. Our spiritual wholeness, our salvation, is bound together with the wholeness of those who have been taken from.

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