Last week she was climbing a rope to the top of the ceiling in record time. The next day she was pushing a tire down the length of a gym. Yesterday she was in the midst of a rotation that included the stair master, rowing machine and free weights. She spends a lot of time at the gym. She's one of the trainers, an employee who works with several clients in an effort to help them achieve their goals. But I see her working out - I watch her working hard to improve her own body - just as much as I see her training and encouraging other clients. She has ripples in her arms and across her back. She's incredibly lean and strong. She has a body that I'd like to try on for a while. But she's also provided an example of the changes I want to make in my life as a result of this summer.
We all had to memorize and teach a story as part of Godly Play training two weeks ago. I was given the story called, "Ten Best Ways to Live." When using Godly Play, you don't just tell the story with your words. You use objects - a desert box filled with sand, a large rock upon which Moses receives the Ten Commandments, small people who you move across the sand, and pieces of a puzzle in the shape of a heart that inform all your listeners about the ten best ways we can live. The teaching method is captivating, and I had so much fun telling the story, putting my hands in the sand and saying "The desert is a dangerous place." I cannot wait to tell more stories.
After we told our assigned story, our classmates took time to share their observations - the things that worked well in our storytelling and the things we might want to consider changing the next time. Several questions were asked. One is still penetrating my mind, "At what point did you find yourself in the story?"
And that's my very problem.
I am so tempted to do ministry, to memorize the most important parts of a sermon, to get through my visitations, to write what needs to be written, to report what needs to be reported, that I often fail to allow myself - ME! - to get caught up in the story. I regularly forget that I am in the midst of the very same story I'm encouraging others to be part of - that God is at work in my life just as much as I am telling you God is at work in your life.
The trainer at the gym does not let me forget how important fitness is to her - not just to her clients. She regularly demonstrates what it takes to be physically fit. She's taught me this - and she does not even know my name or the impact her example has had on me.
I want to be like that. I want others to not just hear the story from my lips but to see the story through the very life I live. I want people to observe God at work in real and tangible ways in my life. I want people to watch me loving God and neighbor as I love myself. I long for people to see me seeking first the kingdom - and not just the things that have to be done at the church.
I went to worship recently and noticed what it looks like when one is going through the motions instead of getting caught and tangled by the story. The sermon was preached by his colleague and was an incredible sermon on prayer. But when it came time to pray, the words were so formal that one knew the prayer was written and read instead of coming from the heart. When it came time for the announcements, there were enough funerals announced that you knew the pastoral team had to be exhausted. But this exhaustion came through - this lack of energy was tangible. The beauty and gift of prayer that was described in the sermon was hard to see practiced. The awesome power, grace and mercy of God may have appeared in the liturgy - but it was hard to see in some of the living examples around me.
I believe with my whole heart that a relationship with Jesus can and should be the most life-giving relationship we have. I believe that Jesus is passionately pursuing us at all times like a woman who turns her house upside down to find a missing coin or a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep behind to find one who is missing. I believe Jesus is far more ready to hear from us than we are prepared to turn to him in prayer. I believe Jesus loves us so much that there is absolutely nothing we can do to make him love us less. And I believe Jesus expects much from us - that he regularly calls us to work for a different kind of kingdom to emerge on earth as it is in heaven. But I don't want you to simply read these words on my blog or hear them preached from the pulpit. I want you to see me live them through the things I do, the choices I make, the people I love, the things I let go of, the very life I live.
And that's exactly why I'm working hard to get fit - not just physically but spiritually, too.