soul conditioning, part three

The value of weight training is both fairly well-known and multifold. Just so, resistance training in the faith strengthens the structural foundation of your being even as it aligns your story more closely with God’s story and improves your posture in both. It reduces injuries from collisions between faith story and lived story, and, for the inevitable injuries sustained, it makes for a faster rehabilitation. It increases your metabolism of experience—helping you process it as indicative of God’s story manifest in your own. It improves balance of being and prevents that particular obscene obesity that comes from the wrong priorities accorded entirely too much weight. Being stronger in your faith story makes life more abundant and, ultimately, leads to life eternal. Resistance training constitutes a vital component of your faith health regimen. As with weight training you alternate stressing your major muscle groups (your core, your lower and upper body), so, too, in order to strengthen your faith.

II. It’s vitally important for your overall conditioning that you consistently work your core. Both movement and stability start with your core, and it is more and more taken for granted that working your core is the basis for strength, balance and health, and involves so much more than just abs work.

For the purposes of faith conditioning, we identify your core as God—who God is (God is love—the one in whose image you are created—the one you identify as priority). Your core thus includes God’s relationship with you, and your relationship with God—a relationship characterized as and by love (all affirmations you may remember from your warm-up). But for resistance training to have value, it has to be challenging. The gym acknowledges the truth of the cliche “no pain, no gain!” So, as true as it is that God is love and that God loves you, it is imperative for your growing strength in the faith not to stay at the foundational affirmation, but to begin asking, first, “How is God’s love expressed in time—in history? How does God choose to manifest self, and how does God choose to relate to creation and to do God’s work?” and, second, “Therefore, what does God expect of me? Since God is love and since God loves me—since God names me child and heir, what does God expect of me?”

Since God is love, God is always present as love. God does not act in any way inconsistent with love. God does not contradict God’s being (I am that I am). Since God is love and God loves you—since God names you child and heir, God expects you to present yourself to your world as love—to live into love—to trust its creative, transformative power. God expects you to risk responding to the world with love (because it’s not love without risk), and God expects you to cultivate the discipline that returns whatever it is with which the world responds to your love with more love. It is imperative, as someone with a basic, foundational sense of God’s love, to begin building on that foundation.

Now here’s the challenge in all your resistance training: you need to force together in your mind—your imagination—the detailed specifics of your living—your reality—with the implications of your faith affirmations—visualizing precisely where your faith confronts the truth of your living—picturing what your living might look like with your faith affirmations more rigorously applied. What would it be like … what would you be like … if love characterized more of your relationships—if love characterized more of your reactions to people and circumstance? You see, if you were to superimpose the story we tell on the story you live, you’re the only one who knows how they would line up. That’s what I’m asking you to do. Not for anyone else to know. Certainly not for anyone to judge. But for your own ongoing assessment of your faith health and your faith integrity.

This is so much more than naming your core values and faith affirmations. This is about working them! But this is the work that will bring stability to your being. Through all that life throws your way, this is what you do to stay centered.

III. Working your lower body grounds you—providing a solid, strong base from which to be and do. So part of our faith training seeks to ground your being—to provide you with a solid, strong faith base. But since we’ve already established God (and your relationship with God) as your core, what then grounds you? What serves as your base?

You are grounded in an appropriate love of self. Notice again, we’re taking some of the simple, basic affirmations of the warm-up, but are no longer content just to make the affirmation. Now we ask the affirmations (I am created in the very image of God. I am blessed. I am loved)—we ask the affirmations to push us—to prod and provoke us. Affirmation becomes a beginning, not an end, and the goal is to move beyond affirmation (as important as that is) to the challenge inherent to truly loving your being.

For if you love yourself—truly and appropriately, you see yourself clearly. You don’t coddle yourself—don’t deny or ignore shortcomings. And if you love yourself, you want to grow—want to grow into a better you—keep growing into an ever better becoming you—an ever more true you—a you ever more true to your core—a you who does not contradict your core (you are that you are). Considering again how the story your living claims lines up with the story we proclaim, visualize the you you want to be. What would it be like, to see the difference between the you you are and the you your faith calls you to be, but to see that difference in all truth and in grace as well? To see in order to become?

While thinking about and working with your lower body, note how very important it is to keep it aligned with your core. If your lower body doesn’t work with your core to maintain a balanced center of gravity, you set yourself up for all kinds of problems. To not be aligned with your core is to work against yourself and to undermine and compromise balance, strength and health. Muscles then develop awkwardly to compensate and you end up misshapen—a distorted version of how you were created to be … or you end up dependent—needing to lean on something or someone.

Your love of self, aligned with God and God’s love, creates your perfect posture in the world, strong, stable, balanced, grace-full in movement.

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