Talking Physical Fitness & Spiritual Health

This is a repost I thought worth sharing again. -JB

I had a great conversation today with an old high school friend.  She is a not a Christian, very unreligious and, as she said herself, “totally clueless when it comes to religion, Christianity, church, the Bible and stuff.”  So, while she is not conversant in things spiritual, she is extremely passionate and articulate in two other realms of life: outdoor/wilderness sports and physical healthy and fitness.

She can talk for days about backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and so on.  As she put it, “I feel most alive when out in nature.”  Furthermore, she has advanced degrees in physical therapy and is passionate about the pursuit of physical health and wellness.  I would say she is downright “evangelistic” about this topic.

In other words, we have very different interests. She is most alive being physically active outdoors in nature.  I am most alive when exercising my mind muscles while indoors surrounded by books.  (Now that spring is almost here, I will soon be bringing my books outside to read!)

I wanted to bridge the gap between our very different passions in life, and guide the conversation to things spiritual.  As we talked I discovered that there was a very natural connecting point between us just waiting for me to point out to her.  You see, whenever we see each other (maybe once a year) she is always concerned about our physical health.  She asks if so-and-so has lost the weight they had put on, and if I am staying physically active and working out.  (Do I look fat to you?) She is deeply, genuinely and passionately concerned — and not afraid to share it.

At another point in the conversation she said her husband has mentioned going to church on Sunday mornings.  She told him she believes spending Sunday mornings outside on a hike or bike ride would be more meaningful and life-giving.  Interesting.  So, here I saw a good time to jump in and bring a different perspective on two points she had raised.  I shared the following insights (not in these exact words) with her:

  • First, the beauty and joy the outdoors bring you point to the Creator of them.  Every Sunday you spend in the woods or on a mountain trail you ARE already in God’s sanctuary — even if it doesn’t have stained glass windows and a steeple.  God’s fingerprints are all over the nature you so adore and appreciate.  You are never closer to God than when you’re in your favorite outdoor sanctuary.  Perhaps the God you envision in your mind is trapped in a church building somewhere, when in reality He is waiting for you by the mountain spring.  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. . . From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17).
  • Second, just as you are professionally trained and entrusted with the duty of caring for the physical fitness and well-being of your clients, so I (pastors) am trained and entrusted to care for the spiritual well-being of the people I minister to.  You are a physical trainer and doctor; I am a spiritual trainer and doctor of the soul. Both are real; both complicated; and both demanding jobs.  Just as you are passionate about physical heath and your heart is grieved when you see a friend neglecting their physical well-being; so I am passionate about spiritual health and my heart is grieved when I think about your lack of interest in your spiritual health and vitality.  Some neglect their body; others neglect their soul.  Both have bad results; but only one has eternal ramifications.  Eventually our physical bodies waste away — whether at age 50 or 100.  Then what?

Both of these observations were met warmly with a real sense of “aha” and interest.  She had never really thought of it this way.  She especially gained a new perspective on why Christians are passionate about sharing their faith and bringing up spirituality.  We are all evangelists; though we have different messages we’re passionate about sharing with others we care about.  My message happens to be about one’s spiritual state and outlook.

On the nature side, I think it was refreshing to hear me say that the life God created us for is not contained in an old steepled building, a Bible Study or worship service.  God longs to ravish us in the beauty of nature, and many believers (myself included) first encountered God in a real and powerful way while staring up at the night sky or watching the sun set over the ocean.

So, I hope this is a helpful lesson for us all and a reminder that there are often some very natural and unoffensive ways to talk about our Christian faith and spirituality with our friends who tend to speak a different language and care about different things.

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

One Comment Add yours

  1. Keri says:

    I love that sometimes it’s the simple things that give us an ‘aha’ moment. Great job using how your friend is wired to help explain your passion for the Lord… looking forward to more conversations!

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