|...you know I have been going to the gym...|
Yes, I have successfully managed to squeeze my corpulent reverential bulk into a gymnasium to a sufficiency that demands the language of plurals. I run some, row some, stretch pull and lift some - then I steam and spa, shower, coffee, home. I have even lost a stone of lard since Christmas, so there.
I used to go to the gym when I was late-teenager and did, believe it or not, sport the odd formed muscle. You'd be hard pressed to discern shape under the blancmange that caresses every inch of my ontologically-changed form nowadays, but aspire I do, and sweat too.
There are many good arguments in favour of keeping fit as a sort of 'Temple preservation exercise', to maintain the mean-altar that the Lord places in our unworthy hearts. I subscribe, reluctantly, as one who finds it hard to exercise these days. I accept too that as fleshly creatures, we are a complex assortment of the circulatory, muscular, skeletal, endocrine, immune and digestive to name but a few. We make even the most complex computer look like an abacus, and we cannot endlessly neglect our bodies.
So, to the gym I go in the presumptuous hope and belief that I am doing some good as I fast approach my forties. I don't aspire to a muscularity as offered in the image, or to be able to run a marathon, but simply to live long and live the best I can.
As I look around the gymnasium, itself set within a Temple of Sport (Twickenham Rugby Ground), I see much that attends to the needs of all that makes us animals the same as lions and tigers. As humans, and as those created in God's image, we are so much more than skin, bone and sinew. We have a facet of our being that sets us apart from all other creepy crawlies and birds of the air - and that is our innate spirituality.
If I want sodding great big arms, I can sling some iron around. Big arms I gain but to what end? To pull down a steer and bite its ears off? Do big muscles and a thriving blood-system keep us feeling happy? Do they give a sense of wonder in the face of exquisite beauty? Do they help us know God even a fraction more? No, of course they don't. It would be the same as saying that a church is mighty because its roof doesn't leak, or that a bank will never fail because it has modern lifts. We focus on the the tangible and external because we can see results.
But we often neglect the intangible, immeasurable - and I believe increasingly to our peril.
I have been working on a sort of idea born of the efforts I put in at the gym, an idea that might find life in my church. I believe, quite sincerely, that many Christians privately despair because they think that can't pray or relate properly to God. Of course they can, but that reticence often provides a barrier to the experience. Also, prayer techniques are acquired and learned like so many others. We are creatures of habit, good or bad, and sometimes we just need to be shown a new way.
I will, in one form or another, be proposing the idea of a sort of a spiritual gymnasium (Pip and Gym?) where all-comers can be exposed to 'exercises' and receive a little guidance and advice (or more importantly, a time and a space). Presenting an opportunity, in a conspicuous form, to maximise on the relationship that is already there and already full will (I believe) give us all a greater ability to receive what is always there in abundance from our Lord.