Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on finding grace at the gym, particularly Abilene’s YMCA in Redbud Park.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I have been trying to get to the gym on a more regular basis.
When I first returned to an exercise regimen, I solemnly vowed that I would not use elliptical machines. They seemed simultaneously to require too little effort and too much coordination (more than I possess, anyway). When I grew tired of swimming every day, however, I sheepishly broke my vow and gave the elliptical a try. Astonishingly, I enjoyed the experience far more than I expected I would. Sure, I looked a little like a baby deer the first time I tried to make my arms and legs work together, but I eventually got the hang of it. More importantly, I discovered that when you do it right, the elliptical is a lot more challenging than it looks. By the time I finished my first hour-long session, I was completely worn out and gasping for a drink of water. When I stumbled to the water fountain, I noticed the word etched into the plastic handle: “Oasis.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the experience of drinking water from that fountain after a long workout. Like an oasis in the desert, it was a place of refreshment and sustenance, a verdant patch of green in an otherwise forbidding landscape, a place that signaled it was time to rest.
Where is your oasis? Where is the place that you can stop, rest, and be refreshed? One of the important aspects of life in the Church that I believe we have forgotten is the practice of Sabbath. We have gotten seduced by the notion we always have to be doing something in order to be considered productive. Our ancestors, however, recognized that we are occasionally the most productive when we are doing nothing at all. The Torah lays out a fairly comprehensive approach to the concept of Sabbath. Not only are there rules requiring people to rest every week, there are regulations that specify when to let land lie fallow, when to rest livestock, and when to cancel debts. Sabbath, in other words, not about taking a breather every once in a while, it is about reevaluating our position in the world and reorienting ourselves to the God who created us. It was a way of rejuvenating the land and reinvigorating human relationships, something that we desperately need in this age of overconsumption and mistrust. So, as you consider where you might find your oasis, make sure it is a place where you can really stop. Make sure it is a place where you can go regularly and be productively unproductive, where you can reevaluate where you are and reorient yourself to God.