I am the youngest of four siblings. As a youngest child, I have a confession: I typically try to get away with doing the least amount of work as possible. This has worked for me throughout my entire life, even in school where I was able to achieve pretty high marks. Even though I don’t like to expend a whole lot of effort, things have always tended to work out for me.
Subconsciously, I am coming to understand that I have a faulty view of sanctification. I struggle with most things that appear to be works-oriented at this point in my life. In my younger days, I tried certain tactics to conquer sin in my life, but they never seemed to work. Growing older has caused me to become more cynical. Diligently buckling down, reading my bible more, praying more, getting up earlier, whatever tactic du jour never really seemed to work in becoming more like Christ or having a deeper relationship with the Lord. I’ve tried them all, resulting the the same failures in sin, the same lackluster relationship with my Father in heaven.
I don’t believe I will ever have a perfect relationship with God or conquer sin in my lifetime, but how about a small victory here and there? Cant’ I get an advancement on the battlefield every once in a while? Why am I stuck in the same trenches, engage in the same firefight that I found myself in 15, 20, or even 25 years ago?
I took up CrossFit about a year and a half ago, a little while before my family moved from Arkansas to Tennessee. Prior to CrossFit, I engaged in a fairly regular workout routine at a local gym. I wasn’t seeing much results, if any. I didn’t feel or look like I was consistently working out. Costing me only $10 a month, I didn’tworry much about it. In reality, I was getting what I was paying for: $10 worth of results.
Then I joined CrossFit. Everything immediately changed. (This is not and advertisement for CrossFIt. I’m not one of “those” people. Just bear with me for a moment.)
At this point in my mid-to-late-thirties, I haven’t felt this good since high school. In fact, I’m weigh the same now as I did in high school. Joining CrossFit, I transitioned from working out alone to working out in community. Instead of always doing what I—in my limited knowledge—thought was best, I began performing prescribed workouts by trained and certified experts. I began working muscle groups I normally never touched with a 10 foot pole. I gained knowledge of movements as my coaches showed me proper techniques. Throughout this journey, I see people ahead of me on the path and I am challenged by them. I see others who have started behind me, and I am encouraged by the progress that I have made. I perform movements now that I could not do before. I’m surprised by how far I have come.
Here is the point: one of the most significant things that CrossFit has done for my fitness has been to open me up to other people. My fellow athletes see my strengths and weaknesses. They encourage, challenge, and critique me. I’m told to keep my back straight, to lock out my elbows, to keep my weight in my heels. As I do these things, I find progress. On the road to progress, people see my terrible and awkward form. They see the embarrassing amount of weight that I can (or can not) lift. They see me performing each work out, not at the prescribed weight for men, but most often at the prescribed weight for women. And I am ok with that.
As you read through Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul calls his mentee to do his best to present himself to God as one approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Later in the letter, Paul exhorts him to “flee youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22). Customarily, I would read these words and perform spiritual workouts like my previous days in the gym. I would attempt to do my best for God all by myself. I would keep doing the same things in my Christian life, expecting to get great results over sin and deepen my relationship with the Lord. Rarely, if ever, would this actually happen.
When I began to open myself up to Christian community, things began to slowly change. I can try to flee youthful passions on my own. However, I can easily avoid fleeing these passions if I am the only one who knows about them. I can secretly live with the “appearance of godliness” while being consumed with the list of sins and vices that Paul lists in 2 Timothy 3:2-5: “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” But this is not God’s desire for me. I can fool most people with appearances, but God can't be deceived.
When my life on earth is don, i desire to write a verse similar to Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I won’t fight, I won’t race, I won’t flee passions if I go it alone.
So I have some men in my life who know me well. They don’t know me perfectly because I still find it hard to be completely vulnerable. I write this post partly out of therapy. I want to live more open with others because I truly do desire to flee my youthful passions. I desire to desire the Lord, but I need help on the path. Many may have more self-control. They may be able to walk the way of sanctification more in their own strength. I can’t. I’m too weak. I need other who will encourage me, challenge me, critique me and support me.