Friday, June 30, 2006


A few years ago, while out for a morning jog, I briefly caught a conversation between a toddler and his mommy pushing him in a stroller:

-(Pointing to me) "What's she doin'?"
-"Running, dear."

I remember chuckling ruefully at the time. However, I've in fact been bothered of late by the same question. Why are we so attached to sports or physical activity - i.e. recreation? Why the World Cup? Why pickup baskball games in the park? Why hundreds of people running around every weekend in seemingly futile circles around Lake Calhoun, Isles, Harriet, etc.? Why swimming, sailing, kayaking, golfing (SERIOUSLY), hiking, biking, canoeing...

Much could be said about pride and the search for prestige, especially in the more visible sports. But these are the most obvious answers. I'm gonna place my bets elsewhere, just for argument's sake. What other motives might there be? (My mind is filling up with images of "special stories" from Olympic coverage of years passed, when we see the young, brave athlete strapping on their skates for the umpteenth time...)

I don't want this to get corny.

But something DID strike me recently that I've got to throw out there. While joggin' and sloggin' along through the summer heat recently ("why?!"), I realized that in re-creation, we re-create ourselves in a way. Give me a second to explain. In this world, we all yearn for new bodies. No one is exempt from this. For the Christian, one of our dearest hopes and convictions is that when the Lord returns, our bodies will be resurrected and NEW. This is essential to the Christian for their ability to withstand the glory of God. As the downcast Job explains:

A. Life sucks. REALLY sucks. But -
B. "As for me, my Redeemer lives. Even after my skin is destroyed, YET FROM MY FLESH I SHALL SEE GOD." (Job 19:25)

This "flesh" can only be the resurrected body, because the old body is "destroyed". Paul invites us not to speculate overmuch, but we do know that it will be modeled after the design of the body of the resurrected Christ - "we shall all be changed." (1 Cor 15:51)

But what the heck does all this theology have to do with sports & stuff?

Here's the deal. I'm seeing that our desires to shape and tone and firm up and strengthen - these are all God-given desires, because we want our new bodies SO BADLY. When coupled with the communal, competetive, and other aspects of sports, the urge to partcipate really takes over, for some people. (You'll know what I mean if you're that kind of person.) But I'm ready to postulate (oh dear) that the desire for our resurrected bodies is the PRIMARY MOTIVATOR. I'll be happy to discuss with anyone who feels the contrary. I'm particularly interested in what y'all think about the legitimacy of searching for a new, toned earthly body if a heavenly one is on the way. Are all of our sweaty efforts in vain? What purpose do they serve towards our eternal life?


the poet said...

Ok, like I read this initially a few moments after it was posted and found it wildly thought-provoking. So, I thought I would stop by in a day or so and pick up on the comments... Ahem, guys, this is a very cool piece. Let me toss in a starter remark. Yes, I agree the new body is coming. But I hold that I can use this one to train myself in eternal matters - learning about beautiful form and almost magical creation, seeing beyond the skin to a real person, discipline (that's the running part) and its place in driving me to God, being taught to appreciate and maintainb what I've been given, learning about love on many levels... and so on. The current "old thing" has a place and a purpose. God agve it to us for Him purposes, and much of life's excitement is figuring out that puzzle. Any other thoughts out there?

abbey said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your list of eternal uses for that "old thing", our body.

I want to hone in on "discipline and its place in driving me to God". When I read that phrase, I immediately thought of Paul's illustrations of his struggle against sin, especially in Romans 8. He repeatedly uses the metaphors "flesh" or "body" as evil and opposed to the spirit, have been haunting me. Regardless of Paul's intent (which is a powerful analogy to explain the interplay between our old self and new self in Christ), Christians (historically) seemed to have taken the analogy literally. Hence, flagellation, glomming onto stoic views of the body, etc. On this note, I thank God for C.S. Lewis, who struck a very rare balance between license and law by reminding me of "Brother Ass":

"Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the "tomb" of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a "sack of dung", food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom know Greek), the nudist and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body, "Brother Ass". All three may be---I am not sure--defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money. "Ass" is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either rever or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body." -The Four Loves

"Now the stick and now a carrot". Discipline and indulgence. Run 5 miles, eat ice cream.

How does discipline of the body drive us to God? I can see an immediate answer: we need His strength to make it through. Are there more? Why aren't there more sermons and/or teachings on exercise? It seems like a neglected category, like music or the arts. If anyone knows any good resources on the subject, please let me know.

And am I confounding physical and spiritual disciplines too much? I guess I'm just illustrating how easy it is to take Paul's analogy literally rather than figuratively. [sheepish grin].