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 (NRSV)
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 are strengthening weak knees and toning our incredible (spiritual) six-packs.
It’s painful. It makes us want to cry. But we know: the path of least resistance is also the path of least growth.
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.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.