Last year I joined a gym. I was only one of the hordes that signed up in January following two months of eating like a ravenous sumo wrestler. After popping the buttons off several pairs of slacks, I knew that it was time to take action.
It had been years since I took physical fitness seriously. My shape had become so lumpy I could barely admit to myself, let alone anyone else, that I had once been an aerobics instructor. Well, it was never too late to make a fresh start. At least that‘s what I had always told those who joined my classes.
I was no fool. I started out easy, first choosing water aerobics and stationary bicycling. Both of these provided good exercise without total concentration. I prayed through long lists of prayer requests during water aerobics and listened to inspiring Christian music on my MP3 player while bicycling.
Long forgotten muscle groups screamed their resistance, but eventually I gained strength and endurance. My confidence grew, and I felt ready to move on.
Scanning the schedule of classes, I discovered that the gym’s offerings had changed during my absence from the fitness scene. For some un-explainable reason, I settled on kickboxing as my next endeavor.
Kickboxing moved at a killer pace as compared to that of water aerobics, and the music was much less serene than what I enjoyed while bicycling. I struggled to match the tempo as sweat formed puddles under my feet. I felt like a duck out of water. Perhaps I was better suited for Bingo tournaments.
While most of the women in the class wore compression shorts and sports bras designed to accent their slender, youthful bodies, I wore baggy T-shirts and sweatpants in order to conceal mine. I had to think and move more quickly than I was accustomed to. On more than a few occasions I turned the wrong direction, narrowly missing my neighbor’s side kick or forward jab. Yikes!
But the maladjustment went even deeper than that. You see, I am a gentle soul –a peacemaker type. Kickboxing is anything but peaceful. Bobbing and weaving while aiming uppercuts at imaginary rivals was simply not in my nature. In fact, it made me laugh. After all, I had no plans to hang out in dark alleys any time soon.
Suffice it to say that I didn’t take my new pursuit seriously. During my first several sessions the instructor exhibited considerable patience and restraint, but that was about to change. One day I settled into the now-familiar routine and allowed my mind to entertain possible ideas for a story I was writing.
“Pay attention! Focus! Your opponent is right in front of you!” The reprimand was directed at me, only inches from my face. Jolted out of dreamland, I heeded the command, my cheeks stinging from more than the heat of exertion. During the remainder of that class every part of my being remained engaged.
Afterwards, I licked my wounds; or rather I licked the residue of hot fudge from my lips after indulging in an unhealthy amount of self-pity.
Finally, though, I confessed to myself that the instructor was right. She had accurately perceived my lack of enthusiasm and attentiveness. Until that day I had no intention of taking kickboxing seriously. I decided then and there that my attitude had to change if I was to continue.
As I considered my dilemma, the instructor’s words resounded ringing with familiarity and truth, although I couldn’t pinpoint why until I came across this verse. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”* The words packed a powerful dummy punch, reminding me that I had lost sight of my spiritual enemy as well.
Oh Lord, keep me focused and alert. Guard me from growing too comfortable in my spiritual routines. Make me aware of the enemy who seeks to devour me. Strengthen me through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Thank you, Lord, for jarring me out of my complacency.
I returned to kickboxing with a new attitude and a new strategy. My opponent was real. He had a name and a purpose. I would take him seriously, blocking his every move. It added vigor to my workout and prudence to my continued peaceful existence.
My attitude adjustment would not, however, be accompanied by a wardrobe adjustment any time soon.
*I Peter 5:8 NASV
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