Don’t forget your spiritual harness

It’s hard staying in shape when one isn’t athletic, and their primary vocation requires sitting at a desk. That’s me. But I love walking, although this winter’s frigid temperatures often trap me inside.

Our sheepdog, Cash, who took me for twice-daily walks until the great winter chill set in), abruptly reversed course after about a hundred steps the other day. The thermometer read 32 below zero. “And that,” I clearly heard him sigh, “is quite enough.” I agreed and followed him back home, where he collapsed beside the fireplace.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” they say. When, while sitting at my desk, I remember that, I raise my arms. Then I stand up and do a few awkward squats, leg raises or wall push-ups before sitting again.    

As difficult as it may be, staying in shape physically sometimes feels more doable than keeping spiritually fit. Christ-followers rely strongly on gathering for worship and Bible study to keep each other strong. We can run on a treadmill or walk alone, but faith easily weakens in isolation. The pandemic made gathering more difficult. In-person services and Bible studies were cancelled or moved online. That doesn’t work well for everyone.

Maybe we all need the reminder that  faith’s true gymnasiums aren’t found in our churches or gatherings, as important as those are. Our best faith-builders are the places and situations that require us to pray; to believe and trust God when challenged, fearful, intimidated, helpless or hopeless.

My closest girlfriend and I stood underneath a zip line at Cypress Hills Provincial Park last summer, watching the spruces sway, hearing tourists squeal as they zipped through the air on what looked like threads above us. “C’mon, Kathleen,” Glenda urged. “Let’s do it!” She always has been the adventurous one.

I watched a long while, pondering, protesting. Finally, “Yes,” I peeped. Oh, God, I prayed silently. Do you mind me leaning on you as I zip? In that moment, minnows (or something that felt like those) began circling in my tummy.

To my combined relief and disappointment, the line was already booked. We agreed to try again next summer. There went the minnows again, a slow circling. How does one practice for extended zip-lining, I wondered.

I’ve realized something since. If we ever take that trip, before flying down that thread through the air, we’ll don harnesses. They’ll keep us safe, even when terrified. We can trust them because they have proved trustworthy for thousands of people who took that same trip before us.

We can’t rehearse or practice our response for situations that whisk us abruptly from our comfort zones. The ongoing pandemic has proved that. But God has already provided a harness for us, one that ensures spiritual safety forever. A harness that builds spiritual muscle the more it’s used. A harness of faith and prayer, of belief and trust in Christ, no matter our circumstances. All we must do is put it on and keep it on. Please don’t fly through life without it.

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