Hey everyone! I apologize for loading y’all down with book reviews lately…I had an obligation to review several books, but I’m happy to announce that that streak is over for now! Expect to see a book review sometime toward the end of August, but, until then, I hope to have some other content out for y’all. (yay!)
Anyways, I recently found a sport I actually enjoy playing and can play…more or less, anyways. That sport is pickleball! It’s been so great for me to find a sport that I can play decently. Though I’ve had many embarrassing mistakes in my first week of playing, the satisfaction of having my paddle hit the ball and seeing some of my shots rendered unreturnable by more experienced players was so worth the temporary embarrassment.
Getting active while still enjoying whatever I’m doing has not been a trend in my life, and I’ve often had to force myself to go for a walk. Though I somewhat succeeded in getting myself to dance or do muscle exercises around the house and enjoy it, I never seemed to enjoy organized land sports, mostly because I had miserably and humiliatingly (yes, that’s a word) failed so many times as a kid and didn’t care to try again. That is…until pickleball came into my life.
(Please bear with me…I am getting somewhere with this rant)
There was one downside to pickleball, and I didn’t find out about it till about two hours after my first day playing. It was a very tangible reminder of what I had done all morning, and it was a revolt of my body against pickleball as a whole. This downside is: muscle soreness.
I found out that my sedentary lifestyle was not working in my favor and my muscles and tendons were not happy as a result. After suffering with this for the rest of the day, I got back on the court the next morning and played some more, temporarily forgetting about my muscle soreness. Well, I remembered it a half hour later. Less than a week later, I was back out on the courts.
I came back to the house after those games expecting to walk around like an old lady–but much to my surprise, I was fine! My thigh was ever so slightly sore, but it was nothing like I had been experiencing. The next day I got out again, and, once again, I had no soreness except for a tiny bit of ankle pain. As my pain steadily decreased, I was steadily encouraged that this thing was doable and actually worth it.
And then I asked myself a poignant question: how many of us live a spiritually sedentary lifestyle? How many times have I opted to stay on the couch, stimulating my brain learning about God or even spending time with God and communing with Him, but I haven’t gone out and stretched my spiritual muscles or actually been active in making people aware of God’s goodness and love, as well as His perfection and holiness and the way He paved for us to get back to that place?
In my humble opinion, the answer is too many times. For me personally, I know that it has been too many times. So often I am content to glory in my own knowledge of and communion with God and even in the ways I serve Him, but my ability to get out there and do it is lacking.
One thing I noticed when I began to play pickleball was my awkwardness out on the court. I had sat at my computer for several days prior to my first day studying endless volleys, rules videos, and tips and tricks…but I was still horribly awkward with a legit paddle, attempting to effectively whack a small ball across the court. And you better believe those videos did absolutely nothing to help that soreness, either.
I believe that we as believers have sat around watching tips and tricks videos, so to speak, for much too long. I will say that those videos helped my growth in pickleball immensely, but they did nothing to improve my actual play of the game. They didn’t make a paddle feel more comfortable in my hand, or help me make contact with the ball, or even hit it in bounds. And, likewise, theological training or reading manuals or studying things like demonology or healing can help you immensely when you get out there and begin to minister to people, but they won’t make you feel any more comfortable doing those things.
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched videos on street ministry, only to cower at the thought of walking up to someone and sharing the love of God with them. YouTube never taught me how to be comfortable with a paddle, and it will not teach you how to get out there and follow the Great Commission.
Not only did my awkwardness with the ball and paddle decrease over time, but my soreness level did, too. Now soreness is a whole different ball game (pun intended) from awkwardness on the court…so what is its spiritual equivalent?
Maybe your flesh is giving a revolt against exercising your spiritual muscles, even though you’ve prepared yourself plenty for your task. Maybe your spiritually sedentary lifestyle is taking its toll as you find that the aftermath of working for God can be painful. You can be attacked on all sides demonically, from other people, or even from other believers in Jesus (and I’m tempted to say the latter is worse).
Just like exercise-caused muscle soreness, there are a few things you can do to soothe these attack wounds, but the best thing you can do is get out there and work your muscles some more. And more. And more. As you persist and walk in victory over those spiritual sore places, you will find that they don’t hurt so much anymore. Yes, you’re still being attacked. But your joy will be exceedingly greater than what you see around you, and you’ll hardly notice the pain as you continue to “exercise” more and more.
Please note that I am not advocating works as a way to get to Heaven–I am equating exercising our spiritual muscles with evangelizing, praying for the sick, casting out demons, cleansing today’s spiritual lepers, and telling more and more about the Word of God and His great love to those around us. That is true exercise of our spiritual muscles.
Please pray for me as I continue to find more boldness and step into the calling that has been given to me and you and all that are in the Bride (which can be found in the Great Commission and in the actions of Jesus), and know I am praying for you. Feel free to add your experience in the comments and share how you have been exercising your spiritual muscles or what you need prayer for. I’d love to hear from you!