As promised last week in the devotion "Fitness Is Meaningless," , we're going to spend a few days considering - for our health - the wisdom of a few passages of Ecclesiastes. Now, having spent the last few weeks studying it intently on a daily basis with Loretta (led by the wonderful teaching of Alistair Begg), I am more certain than ever that I am the least qualified to lead us through it. But with that said, if there's a life-topic capable of delivering the point of this book or a genre able to display itself as a prime example of the message of Ecclesiastes, it's "fitness."
And so, over the next few days, we'll peel back just a few layers to try and reveal some of the Teacher's intent and then we'll try our best to apply it to our daily lives. And because the book of Ecclesiastes is written by "the Teacher, son of David," let's pretend we're in school together as the lesson begins. So pull up a chair, or a bench. Put down the weight, rack the bar, turn off the music. Let the gym of your heart quiet and the yearning end, even if just for a minute.
For many of us, Sunday night is meal prep. We measure, weigh, package and display (often with a polaroid for social media) our next 5 days of culinary mastery, not for its appearance so much, but merely to boast and alert anyone that we eat with a purpose. But this isn't a jab at our reluctance and outright obliviousness to those that are hungry, but rather it's to help us realize just how hungry we are. Hungry for, well, let's follow the pattern of the chase; best if you read the next sentence with increasing speed of cadence.
We meal prep, we seek sleep, we wake early, we eat, to train, to work, to eat, to sleep, to wake, to eat, to train, to work, to eat, to sleep, to wake, to eat, to train, to work, to eat, to sleep, to wake, to eat, to train to work, to eat, to sleep to wake. Week after week, after week, after week, the chase continues.
Eugene Peterson once wrote, "Everything we try is so promising at first! But nothing ever seems to amount to very much. We intensify our efforts, but the harder we work at it, the less we get out of it. Ecclesiastes is a famous - perhaps the most famous - witness to this experience of futility. It's a John-the-Baptist kind of book. It functions not as a meal, but as a bath. It's not nourishment, but a cleansing."
Speaking of an experience of futility, as soon as we end our training session, the molecular bodies within us begin repairing the damage we've done, right? No big surprise. Many of us - whether consciously or subconsciously - erroneously base our joy on the limits we find for ourselves and the measurements we can calculate and compare over time. But there's close to a justifiable reason for it. Our bodies - along with our very souls - know they we were once formed perfectly. And I'm not talking about before our birth, but before Adam.
Since the fall, we deal with a broken world and breaking bodies, but that longing you and I have for pristine health isn't a mistake, it's in our divine DNA. Our bodies know what they were intended for and capable of within their God-given makeup. We strive for perfection because that was the original intent. Our cells yearn and our fibers long for their original design and ideal conditions.
But the second the striving ceases, the body begins the rebuilding process of progress, which ironically is the first phase of its retreat, of its weakening, of its slowing.
And so here we are. A group of sinners saved by grace; a group with a passion for health and a fire in the belly to pick heavy things up and set them down with rhythmic regularity; a group sitting in gym class with our hearts at a rare steady rate, listening to the Teacher bring home the message for us loud and clear: We're chasing the wind.
HOMEWORK: Read Ecclesiastes. (And if you have access to it, try reading the message translation for this short series of ours. ) Any thoughts at this point? Talk to me.