As a Pastor, I have lunches with many people. I enjoy getting to know people’s stories and how they have gotten to know God through their own struggles, battles, wins, and losses. Over the years, I have made some great memories of meeting people who have tremendous testimonies. However, some lunches stand out from the rest.
I don’t even remember how I met Karl. I think it was at the church I pastor.
What I do remember is my first lunch with him.
On the way to that first lunch, I had an extra 20 minutes before we were supposed to meet so I zipped into a Barnes & Noble. I was training to run in a half marathon and decided to buy a running magazine so I could read up on any good information that would help me. I bought the magazine and headed to lunch. Most lunches I have with people center around conversations that need pastoral advice. Not this one. God had something up His sleeve for me.
As soon as we sat down for lunch, I could tell that Karl truly walked with God. Many people believe in God but it seems much fewer actually walk with Him. Karl says to me, “God is showing me a picture of you with a racing square on your shirt. He says that you are about to run in a race.” I love those moments. He had no clue I was going to participate in a race. God literally told him.
As the lunch went on I felt like God showed me that Karl would play an important role in my life. I said, “I see you training me.” I had no clue what this “Crossfit” thing was all about and I certainly had no paradigm for what it meant for Karl to own his own gym. I knew as much about Crossfit as I did the Louvre museum…enough to get me in trouble at best. If I only would have known how prophetic that was.
I went to his gym shortly after and when my first workout was done I thought, “I think I heard the devil and not God.” I’ve never done anything like that when it comes to exercise. It was humiliating. I was terrible. I went a few more times and started to like it. I then had a couple of physical ailments (unrelated to Crossfit) over the next four months which required two surgeries. After my body healed, God reminded me of what He wanted me to do. It was six months ago that I heard God say, “Commit to Crossfit. Submit to Karl and do whatever he says in the gym.” I told Wendy, I’m about to go for this thing.
I’ve made many promises to myself over the years about fitness but this time something was different. It was more spiritual than physical. I knew God was trying to teach me something.
The last six months have been about one word for me: discipline. I’m still not very good on my technique. The two guys I work out with completely dominate me every single workout. I walk out of the gym most of the time on the literal verge of collapsing. I still have a long way to go. However, before I started noticing physical changes, I noticed heart changes. Crossfit is teaching me the art of “denying myself.”
Jesus told us that if we truly wanted to follow Him, we must first deny ourselves.
Crossfit has been a practical application of finding joy in something that costs you.
My papa used to say, “Anything worthwhile in life is never easy.” Through my first 6 months, I have found a deep joy in denial. Many people treat the Cross of Christ like a slot machine. When they need something, they just pray and hope Jesus provides. While God does love to take care of His people, He also still extends His invitation to pick up our crosses, deny ourselves and follow Him. At the core of who He is we find selflessness. It’s the epitome of love. As I am learning to deny myself practically, He is teaching me and reminding me that I’m not the central character in my own narrative. He is. Crossfit is teaching me obedience, the art of abiding, and death… Death to laziness and my own flesh. The funny thing is that I am finding a deeper joy in this than when I was not working out.
Death by Karl is really no death at all. I’m finding more life through tough training than I’ve known. I recently re-read Bonhoeffer’s Classic, “The Cost of Discipleship.” I’m not sure there has ever been a better book on the cost of following Christ. Many people feel like anytime the word “death” is used in discipleship that “striving and law” are involved. I have found the exact opposite. I have found there is a tremendous grace on “denial.” I like how John the Baptist said it, “He must become greater and I must become less.” There is a profound joy in that place. I also like what the Missionary Heidi Baker says, “Perhaps God is trying to kill you.”
I know this: I like Him and my life better when I am dead and He is alive in me. It’s impossible to offend a dead man. It’s impossible for a dead man to get “triggered.” Come, Lord Jesus.
Is there anything that God is calling you to die to?