Spending the better part of my weekend at the ballpark, I found myself thinking about a strong but painful memory of high school- running the bleachers. As I looked out over bleachers at Camden Yards and the new Nationals Park, I found myself hurtling back in time to my freshman year, running up and down the stupid bleachers at Murphy High School. Up and down, over and over again. For an hour minimum. Day in. Day out. What would lead a generally normal and smart young high school student to engage in such a stupid and seemingly pointless ritual?
Track team. 400-meter run.
I hated it. But it seemed that in every sport I played, we were forced to participate in stupid drills. Infield drills. Running drills. Sliding drills. Dribbling drills. Footwork drills. Volley drills. I wanted to just get out on the court or field and play, but my coaches kept forcing us to do all these stupid, pointless things. I figured they did it because they didn't know how else to fill up the practice time. Or they just thought it would be a fun way to get us busy. I would have been more than happy to just play the game. As I matured, however, I realized I couldn't play the game without the drills. They weren't pointless. They were designed to make us stronger, quicker, and more intuitive. They made us people of instinct. Drills prepared us for the game.
I think spiritual disciplines are the same way. Prayer, fasting, confession, worship, journaling, etc. Sometimes I start to wonder if God commanded us to do them just to keep us off the streets. Now that we are Christ followers, he has to give us something to do to keep us busy. To be honest, I sometimes find them pointless. C'mon, quite acting all shocked and appalled and arguing, "But you're a pastor." Admit it, you've experienced it, as well. Ten minutes into prayer and that nasty inner man voice questions the sanity and productivity of what you are doing. But when I encounter the tense, painful, and important moments in the game of life, I realize that spiritual disciplines, like athletic drills, are not meant to just keep us busy. They prepare us to play to the best of our ability. They train us into Christ-likeness. The disciplines and the drills are not the goals; rather, they are the preparation to attaining the ultimate goal.
1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”
Maybe I should go run some bleachers.