Crossfit. Strength-training. Endurance exercises. Bigger, better, faster, stronger, longer, more. No pain, no gain.
The gym I frequent (Tru-fit) is big into Crossfit, the current workout-regimen du jour that’s swept across America over the last several years. However, what they don’t tell you is that it can be very rough on your body after awhile, particularly when it comes to your joints and muscle-damage. Though we shouldn’t just “accept” aging and all that comes with it, we shouldn’t necessarily pour all our energy and focus into defying it either. Face it, at 40, 50, and 60, no matter how hard we work at it, we’re probably never going to be in the same shape (or look as good) as we were at 18, 20, or 22. Sadly, it’s a losing battle, especially if you work in an office! One of the unofficial Crossfit mottos is to “push through the pain”, but isn’t pain usually your body’s way of telling you to stop doing something? Besides, sooner or later, all those miles, push-ups, and pull-ups will catch up with us. The detriments of Crossfit may not show up for another 10-20 years in many of its adherents.
One of the inspirations for this post was the recent Christian marketing gimmick of “Cross-fit” in which the exercise apparel shows a picture of the Cross and a related Bible verse or two. Though it’s initially sort of cute/clever to latch onto Crossfit’s popularity and then try to redirect it to Christianity, after a while it seems like just another ploy a company is using to sell products in a semi-Christian market. And I can’t help but wonder how many non-Christian people think it’s just another desperate attempt to try to be relevant, if not politely marketing religion without speaking. I’m pretty sure that wearing clever T-shirts isn’t what Jesus had in mind when He said “Go into all the world and make disciples”!
The other day while on the treadmill (right next to a surprisingly-fit guy I’ve nicknamed “The Plodder”), I was going thru Judges and reading about Samson. As I was doing my best to ignore the loud, endless thump-thump-thumping next to me, I noticed something interesting: the Bible gives no physical description of Samson except for his long hair. There’s no description of his stature, his looks, or even his height like Saul (one of the tallest men in ancient Israel). However, in every drawing or toy of him I’ve seen, Samson always has these huge muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger — but that’s not in the text. Those are merely our assumptions. In fact, Samson was probably just an average-looking Jewish guy, which is why the Philistines were continually stumped as to where his source of strength actually came from (God!). If he had these huge muscles and lumbered around like Conan the Barbarian, wouldn’t it have been rather obvious? Why would his enemies have to bribe and threaten Samson’s love-interests to find out the source of his incredible strength?
The interesting thing about Samson (along with most other Biblical characters) is that he’s all too human — just like us. He had his dramatic, incredible victories and his pathetic, stupid falls over and over again. He recognized his weakness (women, particularly forbidden foreign/exotic women) yet did very little to resist his urges. He knew where the line was and not only kept crossing it, he kept leaping over it! Even when he knew he was being coaxed, tricked, and betrayed, he kept going right back to Delilah’s lap. He never learned from his mistakes until the very end when it was practically too late. All he could do at that point was throw himself at God’s feet and pray to be given one more chance, though he prayed only for vengeance.
Honest, raw, in-your-face humanness in the Scriptures is one of the strong indicators that the Bible wasn’t written by mere men: every one of it’s heroes — save for One — has his/her own particular human faults. Aside from Jesus, I can only think of one or two (Daniel, Ruth, and maybe Ezra) to which no doubt or fault is attributed. Noah has his mishap with wine, Moses had his temper, David had his lust, Gideon had his gold, and Peter had his boastful oaths. In comparison, very few Greek/Roman/Egyptian myths highlighted faults and flaws in their heroes or gods, particularly in the sexual arena. Like modern stories and films, the excitement and emotions of the encounters/conquests are trumpeted but seldom the consequences. The only place where extramarital sex doesn’t have consequences or after-effects is in works of fiction.
For all his strength and courage, it seemed that Samson never seriously considered his weaknesses, particularly when it came to women. They were his blind-spot, and for his refusal to resist his urges and fear God, he was captured and literally blinded. When he fell because of his pride, everything he had placed his security in — namely, his great strength — quickly vanished. When he told Delilah the source of his strength (his hair), he didn’t really believe anything would happen if his hair was cut. Why? Because he’d been crossing the line over and over for awhile without any real consequence. In the end, he deceived himself both in that God wouldn’t keep His word and that Delilah really loved him. If only he would have feared God and built up defenses in his weak areas and steered clear of certain types of women, he might have gone on to many more victories against the Philistines and judged Israel much longer.
When it comes to our own personal strengths and weaknesses, what do we tend to rely on? Is it our intellect, our health, our bank-account, our job, our physique, our accomplishments, or our family (or even our church)? Where do we turn when it all hits the fan and the bottom falls out? Is that the same as where we should turn?
When it comes to our character, do we actively try to strengthen and build up what is weak or do we focus on mostly our strengths and minimize (or ignore) our weaknesses? Like Samson, do we deceive ourselves in that our strengths can more than compensate for our weaknesses? Like Samson, do we not fear God as we should and think that somehow we will be excused from the consequences of our pride and laxity? It’s been observed that the greatest falls occur during times of strength and ease, NOT during trials and tribulations.
When we daily deny ourselves and follow Him, we are less likely to become lax and prideful and then suddenly fall.
When we daily take up our crosses (however that looks), we are less prone to self-deception and being blinded by our own pride.
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” — Jeremiah 9:23-24