I have a friend I call “Number 7”. I don't call him that because it was the uniform number he wore during the glory days of high school exploits – I call him that because he looks like he hatched from a pod. Honestly, if there really was a Mount Olympus on which the deities of this world lived, the dude would have been hewn from its granite. It would be great to be built like him – it seems healthy. But the reason I think he was hatched from a pod is that I see him about once a year. In truth, it is a consistent commitment to training that has resulted in a chiseled physique. Frankly, I prefer my pod explanation – at least I prefer it when I consider why I don't share his physical makeup.

While I may be somewhat athletic, I don't think my history would lead the casual observer to label me an “athlete”. My greatest sporting moments were reserved for pick-up games and the intramural fields. That's kind of like saying you were voted the most eligible bachelor at the spelling bee... My high school letter might as well as been for perseverance more so than ability in baseball. Even so, along the way, there have been times when I felt more compelled to dedicate myself to training. I admired the elite athlete. Shoot, I even admired the varsity athlete! So I would build an internal ramp of motivation off of which I would soar into becoming a finely tuned and toned machine of physical prowess. I would wake early, work hard and eat well... for a week. I might even fashion a schedule and have goals – all designed to stave off the inevitable lull of my will that would meet me in the dark alley of dedication. But there were always pieces of inevitable sand in the oyster of my passion that refused to produce the pearl of achievement... pain, fatigue and time. I WANTED to be fit and to look good – I just didn't think it would take so long and hurt so much! To be truthful, it may not have been the albatross of impending pain that was the death knell for my desire as much as it was a misguided goal. As it turns out, my desire was more for the perception of being fit rather than the reality. When the check came and the price was hours of discipline and delayed results, motivation became a vapor. A gym bag packed with workout gear sits in the back of my car, a hulking nylon monument to my head's desire that has yet to convince my heart... or my feet.  I'm not even sure if my gear is in fashion anymore!  I might need to go shopping for some new stuff.

This seems to be the same impediment in the lives of many followers of Christ. Many find a similar dizzying dance of peak-and-valley discipline in their spiritual lives. And the reasoning may be much the same. We often want lives that are characterized by the results of spiritual discipline – faithfulness, peace, joy, gentleness (seems like there's a list somewhere...) - but there is awfully hard work along the way. If we want the perception of Godliness more than the reality, we may find ourselves gasping for air, trying to convince ourselves it's really worth it. The wisdom of God is that all of our trying and “failing” is part of the discipline process. We are sometimes trained for perseverance by failing... and trying again. That's probably why the Apostle Paul encourages his readers to “run with endurance the race set before us”. Endurance doesn't hatch from a pod. Even with my annual visit from “Number 7” - he hasn't "arrived;" he's still in training, too. Because he's not training so that I will think he's in shape – he's training so that fitness is a reality. Let us press on not to have others think we possess the prize of the upward call of God in Christ but to actually take hold of it ourselves. Now, back to the treadmill...