The Comfort of Atrophy

Atrophy: The gradual decline in muscle; to waste away.

I first learned of the word back in college while sitting around the lunch table with my fellow lifting buddies. A novice weightlifter, I was growing like a weed. I remember thinking - wait, no - I remember knowing that the work and food I was putting to use in one week would be seen the next. It was just a natural mindset, and as it turns out, it was the only way to train, to think, to grow. I did nothing short of declare war with my humanity. Four years later, 18-inch arms and squatting small homes were testaments to that truth. But then...

Not sure when exactly, but over the years and through the heartache of illness I began to lose what I worked so hard for; a thought that would have crushed my younger self. (If you train, you feel me. You know what I'm talking about.) But the body has some amazing ways of pointing us to eternity. Atrophy is one of them. And what a comfort atrophy has become. Indeed, if atrophy had its own verse, it just may be 1 Timothy 4:8, "For physical training is of some value, but training in godliness has value now and in the life to come."

Oh yes, if there's a bodily trait that should remind us to be thankful for grace, it's atrophy, especially if you consider 1) the amount of work it takes to gain muscle and 2) how quickly it disappears if left untrained for whatever reason.

Thankfully - unlike our frail flesh - grace requires no work on our part, no diligence, no steadfast effort. Does it induce those things in our lives? Yes, but are they necessary to sustain it? No. And as I navigate my health and limitations and push hard against the naturally occurring decline, I'm simultaneously reminded of (and comforted by) God's age-defiant, atrophy resistant, eternally resilient grace. Guys, the smaller I get, the sweeter He grows. 

- Jimmy Peña


For Discussion: Friends, we're vapors. We're quickly fading flowers. But isn't it something that when the last muscle to go, the heart - where grace makes its home - can no longer sustain us, grace will have only just begun. That’s the comfort of atrophy.

Finally: I think that’s why I am so humbled about PrayFit becoming more and more an advocate for disability ministry. As we embark upon the next chapter - chapter 2 if you will - I’d love to know if anyone would be willing to reach out to me as a potential ambassador - a page-turner - of the effort? This is unlike anything we’ve ever done. Pretty neat stuff ahead. There will be some promotion and awareness in a few weeks, but quietly I’d like to take your pulse. You can reach out to me directly by emailing jimmy@prayfit.org. When you reach out, I’ll be in touch with my heart and thoughts.