In almost every Army physical fitness test I’ve ever taken, some Soldier has joked about cheating on the run. And yet no matter how many times I’ve heard it, I still smile. Why? Because Soldiers might get an easy grader on our push-ups or sit-ups, but the distance? It is what it is.
But the very fact that some joke about cheating raises some good questions. Are we really interested in getting fit or just getting through one more test? And do we watch our form to work our muscles or do we hope a crowd will form to watch our muscles? The form (good or bad) that we use in anything – exercise, relationships, religion (although I strongly dislike the word) – reveals our spirit. And our form either helps or hinders real fitness and health.
As I write this, my body feels the signs of aging. The last five years of my military assignments have been strictly office work. My back aches after long hours and poor posture in my office chair. I’ve also had two major surgeries associated with “older” adults. I don’t like that word either.
But, believe it or not, I miss the road marches and obstacle courses with Soldiers, and I’m eager to regain some of my physical fitness. And to be honest, sometimes I’m so eager to be fit again that I find myself cheating on my form to give the appearance that I’m stronger than I actually am.
You know what I mean – rocking my upper body to swing those weights up on bicep curls, bouncing the weight off my chests (just a little) to pop the bar up a little faster on the bench, throwing my arms backward and forward for momentum on sit-ups. But cheating on our form always works against us. Rocking back on those bicep curls puts pressure on the lower back and lead to injuries, and bouncing a bench press can even crack your sternum! Yes, such a scenario is rare, requiring a LOT of weight or long-term abuse. But the greater problem is very common: cheating on our form robs us of some of the stress that leads to greater growth.
Listen to Paul’s advice to His second letter to his young apprentice. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good Soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a Soldier. And if a man also strives for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The farmer that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” (2 Timothy 2:3-6). He pictures three vocations that require the workers to watch their form (to welcome or at least to endure the stress) in order to reach their goals.
But is that fair? Isn’t God saying that He will only bless our work if we do things His way? Doesn’t that go against the Bible’s teachings of salvation by His grace and not by our works? And does He really want us to suffer instead of being joyful? Absolutely not on both counts. God calls us to “watch our form” (i.e., do His will His way) so we can experience the joy of Him working through us. (Esther 4:14)
This is not only possible for each of His people. This is part of His plan. The Lord designed the Body of Christ in very specific ways so each member of His Body can live in His image successfully and joyfully through faith in Him by obedience to Him. In fact, our only hope for real joy is to exercise our lives in “good form” – as He instructs us by His Word and designed us by His Spirit.
And just in case you think you have better plans (as I do at times), think of yourself as a rocket ship designed by the Master Rocket Scientist. Our actions are like the actual flight. But like a rocket ship, we require power, direction, and a team. Our emotions are like the fuel that ignites inside to propel us heavenward. Our team must consist of those people who are like-minded about the flight plan and passionate about the mission. And our beliefs are like the guidance system: we can’t get where we’re meant to go if we try to input different information! Every aspect of our being is designed to work together for our success and joy in God’s mission.
Do you see? Form is critical to growth because God did design us in specific ways to function in harmony for our joy in His glory. We’re not cold machines. Every aspect of our being has been damaged by the effects of rebellion, so we need Jesus’ work in us every day. Being aware of our current practices of bad form and being intentional to renew our minds and practices in good form takes ‘mindfulness’.
Maybe you’ve come across the term in some godless self-help TV show or spooky spiritual article. Still, I encourage you not to dismiss the concept. The process and goal of true mindfulness is biblical because it concerns how our body and soul interact in relationships. How our emotions, beliefs, and actions impact each other. Mindfulness of our form (how we’re living) Christian mindfulness frees and inspires us by our meditation on God’s truth to interpret and inspire our relationships in the Body of Christ.
Yet, each of us has a tendency to love self above all else. Instead of our emotions, beliefs, and actions working together to walk with God daily, we tend to go into an “auto-pilot” of pride (self-love) or fear (self-protection). We must watch our form to exercise intentional faith in Him and love for others. Take a moment to read Paul’s description of form in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Our mindfulness in Christ must be constant and will meet resistance in our flesh.
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