Posted on: Mar 13, 2020
The United Church of Christ publishes an online Daily Devotional (https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional), the vast majority of which are written by United Church of Christ pastors and church leaders. Occasionally a devotion seems particularly cogent. This happened recently, such that I want to share it with you. The author is Rev. Vince Hamlin.
Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. Hebrews 12:11-12 (NSRV)
My daughter’s doctors want her to do “tummy time.” For those who don’t have a baby at home, tummy time is when you put your child on her stomach, forcing her to push up against the ground and lift her head up. Babies hate it.
From the moment I place her face down on that blanket, she cries. I want to scoop her up, to save her, but I know her development depends on being able to hold that giant melon up. So we both cry through tummy time. And we’re getting better at it.
The author of Hebrews would be proud. He reminds us that the tummy time of spiritual discipline is how we obtain the neck muscles of righteousness.
Or something like that.
Everywhere we turn, we are offered opportunities for resistance training. When we don’t fire back an angry response to the email that hurt our feelings. When we are confronted on the street by another human being in need. When we march in protest of racial injustice.
When we give our kids the space they need to grow.
Anytime we do the uncomfortably right thing, we strengthen weak knees and tone our incredible (spiritual) six-packs. [emphasis added]
It’s painful. It makes us want to cry. But we know: the path of least resistance is also the path of least growth.
Prayer: Personal Trainer, reveal the hidden growth that lies behind my challenges. When I get tired, let me rest in your arms. Then set me down again.
I confess to never having thought about my “incredible (spiritual) six packs,” especially since the usual male abdominal six-packs now reside only in my memories. Physical six-packs are both firm and flexible — qualities that are visually apparent. They get that way when people practice regular exercise.
Rev. Hamlin suggest that a best practice for developing our spiritual six-packs is to practice doing the uncomfortable — but right — thing. We don’t do this as often as we might because of the resistance we encounter from others. Yet it is that resistance that strengthens our ability to do the right thing.
With practice, the resistance we feel diminishes its force. We know it’s still there, but it’s a lot easier to counter the resistance due to the spiritual strength we’re developing. Just as we have to build strength intentionally through physical exercise, we have to be purposeful in doing the right thing.
Such purposeful practice, no matter the discomfort, is how we fulfill our call to be ambassadors of Christ’s love and compassion in the world.
Pastor Bob Fogal