Thursday, April 14, 2011

Third and Fourth Practices: Exercising and Fasting

"You are not a body with a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." I really like this thought from CS Lewis. One reason I like it is because it recognizes the priority fo the spiritual life. A second reason I like it is that it doesn't diminish the physical body. BOTH are important. All too often though we get caught up in a theology that says the body is evil and the spirit is good. (That kind of thought is actually part of an ancient heresy called gnosticism.) Now we get this kind of thinking because of the struggles we have with our desires,most of them right and natural. However as humans we are often tempted to get the right needs met in the wrong places. (Rabbit trail...for some reason as I wrote that last line, i can hear SNL's version of Lookin' For Love, sung by Buckwheat...)

So if we are this spiritual person, how do we honor the whole without diminishing either the spiritual or the physical? These would be practices 3 & 4, exercise and fasting.

Exercise takes care of the physical body that is created by God and given to us in whatever shape and form we have. We ought to take care of this physical body it is a gift. Now that said, it is easy for us to worship the body (look at most magazines in the checkout line at the grocery story) and make it an idol. That would be loving the right thing wrongly. No, the purpose of exercise is not to have six-pack abs and 0% body fat. No, the purpose of exercise is to be a good steward of what God has given us as a body. In some cases, exercise can even be a form of recreation and enjoyment. Great! So, for this one month experiment, I am going to commit to exercising at least 3 times a week for the purpose of taking care of this physical body God has given me.

Now that said, having a physical body means there are certain desires that come along with having a body. (food, drink, sex, joy, etc.) I believe these desires are part of what it means to have a physical existence in God's creation. However, those desires can easily turn into idols that draw our attention away from God. Which is one of the reasons Christians practice the spiritual discipline of fasting. Intentionally denying oneself a natural desire for a period of time to exercise self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) over bodily desires. This practice is often accompanied with prayer and reflection.

I have always liked the idea of fasting but always feared doing it. So I chose Lent, and now this one month experiment, to give me the opportunity to practice the spiritual discipline of fasting. One day a week I am fasting from eating. When I begin to feel hungry and start to crave food during that period, I will remember am thankful that I have access to plentyof food and pray for all those who do not have food. So far it has been a (pardon the pun) fruitful experience.

Humans are created to be whole (physical and spiritual) and just as it's important for us to intentionally care for spiritual life, I believe it is important to intentionally care for physical life.

1 comment:

  1. Tina De.9:08 AM

    Thanks for this post Chris, it was very interesting. All of your posts are a real reflection of you... insightful and entertaining! We are looking forward to the 'after action report' regarding all these changes, especially the 10pm/5am practice.