The sticky, musty smell of sweat greets our senses every Thursday afternoon. My five year old is taking gymnastics. The class meets in a massive warehouse re-furbished into a one-room gym, with no air conditioning, a mass of watching parents, and dozens upon dozens of flipping, twirling, whirling small bodies soaring and waltzing through the air. It certainly was not what I expected of an Olympic training center.
Most of these children, like my own, aren’t in pursuit of Olympic dreams, but still have the time of their life learning to turn their bodies in ways I never thought imaginable in real life! However, you definitely can’t help wondering, watching these girls flit about the gym, if you are in the midst of future Olympians!
Recently, I met the parent of a gymnast who has already earned an Olympic medal in my book – a medal for courage.
You see, she is the only ten year old girl there who is not fit, thin, and muscular. She is round, and chubby, and heavy. In fact, her mother shared with me that they enrolled her in the class solely with the intention of helping her lose weight! Yet there she was, twirling and flipping her body, just like the rest of them, with a commitment and joy equal if not surpassing those around her.
As I talked with her mom, I came to understand what led her here.
First, it was Taekwondo, then softball, but no sport seemed to stick, and her mother was genuinely concerned about her daughter’s poor health and lack of exercise. And then they tried their hand at gymnastics. And the girl fell in love with it. Yes, it was harder for her because of her weight. Yes, the other girls made fun of her almost every day for being overweight. But this little gymnast knew what she liked, and she evidenced great courage: in coming week after week, withstanding teasing jests and sour glances from her teammates; in striving and pushing her body to do things she might not have otherwise attempted; in flipping and twisting her body as good as any of the rest of them.
What was it that empowered her with the courage to learn a sport that anyone could have considered unsuitable for her?
Her mother’s words were insightful: she loved gymnastics. Enough to not care what other people said or thought; enough to fearlessly engage in the sweaty, uncomfortable, even at times painful process of learning gymnastics; enough to get up and try again every time she fell, even knowing she fell more often because she was bigger than the rest of them.
She wasn’t there to show off; she wasn’t there to win a prize. She was there for the pure joy of the sport, and I admire her deeply for it.
What do I love?
Her story got me thinking: what do I love that much?
Well, you could start with my kids: there’s the sleepless nights, the days of cleaning up vomit and other foul human body waste of unimaginable proportions; then there is the constant battle of wills, the incessant “no’s” and anger continually directed toward my basic requests of “put your shoes on” and “brush your teeth”. And that’s just parenting two little ones! Oh, definitely, my love for my kids runs deeper than my love for my comfort!
Then there’s my husband, who holds the place of greatest love in my heart of all my human relationships, whose very personality is opposite to mine in nearly every way. The resulting conflicts of interest, and the effort it takes to make decisions we both feel are valuable require great striving and commitment. No marriage enjoys relational intimacy without conflict.
You could add to my list my friends, my church, my community. I undergo much discomfort and suffering for the sake of preserving my relationship with these precious people in my life.
But there are other things too that hold my affections: my pride and reputation; my pursuit of “perfection” (otherwise known as perfectionism); my need to be right all the time, no matter what (did I mention pride?!); my achievements. The list could go on.
These deeper motivations push me to do things I otherwise would avoid; to suffer physical, emotional, and relational discomforts for the sake of achieving something I truly believe will bring me to that place of rest and satisfaction I so desperately crave.
I know better theologically speaking, but on a practical level, when it comes down to it, my love for myself and what I believe will make me happy drives me forward through much discomfort, frustration, and pain in most areas of my life.
I have to ask myself: why don’t I love God this way? Why don’t I pursue Him more in spite of all the difficulties that come my way? Why does He always get the short end of the stick?
And, at the end of the day, I have to be honest with myself: I don’t love God this way most of the time, because, despite my correct theology, in the pure integrity of my heart, I do not always believe He will satisfy me.
Last time we talked, we considered that God has a rest for us that will satisfy our souls. That rest is found in part through obedience and submission to His Words of Life. (See Words of Life, Part 1).
If we are to begin to understand that, we first must dissolve the fog that clouds our judgment.
So often, our reason for neglecting God’s Word has less to do with being too tired, too busy, or whatever other excuse we justify ourselves with, and much more to do with a lack of love for God. If our gymnast can ignore the misgivings of others, if she can endure the discomfort of a physically-draining experience, then perhaps we too must be willing to make some sacrifices, and endure some discomfort, and dispel some lies, in order to rediscover truths such as this:
“How sweet are your Words to my taste; sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Psalm 119:103
and, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10.
Is that how you relate with God’s Words? If not, perhaps you need to consider that the real issue behind our neglect of God’s Word is our disbelief, our lack of faith in the truth that God intends to satisfy us through His Words.
Our champion gymnast loved the sport enough to endure the naysayers barraging and the naysayers did not diminish her enjoyment.
What are the naysayers plaguing you with right now as you consider what is keeping you from listening to His Word? I know, every day, internally I hear:
“God doesn’t care.”
“The Bible is too confusing.”
“I’m too tired.”
“God’s Word doesn’t really help me.”
I have to make the choice every day – to let the naysayers get to me, to start believing their words, and stop putting myself in the position to receive life from God through His Words. Or I can endure, like the gymnast, out of love for God, out of faith and trust in His ways of sustaining me, and choose instead to listen to His Words.
Join me next time for an opportunity to deepen your belief that God intends for you to find life in His Words as we explore how Scripture as a whole discusses this.