Getting into Spiritual Shape
About two months ago, I did a blog entry on “spiritual cross training.” I made an analogy between my goal of training for a 5K and training for spiritual fulfillment. I also mentioned that the friend I was training with rarely went to church and when I invited him to a Mass, he went once and commented that it did nothing for him. At that time, I told him, “Neither of us had run a yard in 10 years. What if we tried to run 3 miles in 24 minutes, failed miserably and then concluded ‘running does nothing for me?’” Really, if I haven’t run in years, how can I expect to be able to benefit from the sport in the first workout? Can I run around my neighborhood for five minutes and get on a scale and lament – “I haven’t lost any weight yet!”? I analogized that, “the practice of our faith is a spiritual workout. If you only go to church on Easter and Christmas, how could you possibly expect to be in good spiritual shape? If you don’t make prayer a habit, how can you expect to benefit from the exercise?”
3.1 miles in 36 minutes
Well, yesterday was the race for which we had been training and I am proud of this rather unflattering picture of me approaching the finish line. I am proud because four months ago, I was really out of shape. I was proud that my friend and I stuck to our training. But, I was most proud because one week prior, I had strained my back severely (I am not the twenty-something-blogger named Laura!). My physician said I would be in pain but running wouldn’t exasperate the injury. I was determined to do this race. My friend knew I was in pain as the race started but keep encouraging me to run through the pain.
So that his affliction may glorify God – John 9:1-41
We finished the race – I trailed him by a few minutes and we felt euphoric having finished with respectable times. Since the race was on a Saturday I asked him, “So, what are you doing tomorrow?” hoping the word “church” was somewhere in his answer. Glory to God, he said he was going to Mass adding, “You did not let a lower back strain get in your way, I shouldn’t let a boring homily get in mine.”
Training for and running in a road race is not always fun. But the reward of crossing the finish line eclipses all of the pain and setbacks. The true reward comes in overcoming all of the obstacles that get in the way, including a lower back strain. Frankly, attending Mass regularly can have its setbacks as well, such as a boring homily or two. But, if you can see past the occasional disappointment, the reward that awaits, namely the worship of God in the form of the Eucharist, certainly eclipses all pain, suffering and sin.
We are now committed enough to running that we have already entered in a race scheduled for September. Next time, our goal is not to simply finish but to improve our time. Let’s pray that my friend finds that same commitment to God‘s command to keep holy the Sabbath. Also pray that he and others who have fallen away from the Church not only attend Mass regularly but that they integrate Christian spirituality into their entire lives, despite an occasional disappointment.