Tim is the only person I know who attended university on a weightlifting scholarship. When we met, I had no idea that such a thing even existed. But, years ago, the University of South Dakota had an NCAA weightlifting team, and Tim had been a member.
One season (he told me) the team was not doing well. It kept getting beat tournament after tournament, and the team decided that they were not working out correctly. After all, they did the same routine of dead lift/bench press/squats week after week, and they were not winning. They came up with the bright idea of taking a road trip all the way to Venice Beach, California, to visit the weightlifting Mecca of the country and learn all the secrets from the professionals to become a great weightlifting team.
After a 20-hour car ride, the guys arrived at Venice Beach and, sure enough, there were a number of the champions of the weightlifting world exercising at the outdoor facilities right there in front of them. The team was amazed at what they saw: here were the icons of the weightlifting world doing dead lifts/bench presses/squats just like the team had been doing back in South Dakota.
Tim, being the brains of the outfit, actaully asked a group of the champions what was the secret to their routine. After all, they were doing the same dead lifts/bench presses/squats that the team did back home, but they were champions and the guys from So. Dakota were not. Tim never forgot what they told him.
They said, “The secret is not what exercises you do, it’s how well you do them.
“There is no substitute for dead lifts, bench presses, and squats, but do you give them your full attention?
“Do you concentrate on every one of them to get the most out of them?
“Do you pay attention to the details of position, technique, and intensity every time you touch a weight?
“Do you prepare your head and heart for your workout, and do you think about how you can improve even an ounce or two next time?
“In other words, have you really given yourself over to your practice?”
I think about this story when I think about The Practices in the Micah Society.
When we look at the details of the formation program called The Practices, we do not see anything particularly unique. We see regular prayer, bible study, regular worship, fellowship and accountability. They are the dead lift/bench press/squats of spiritual formation. Like Tim and his team mates who were quick to dismiss their routine of formation, we are often quick to dismiss ours.
But, as the great saints who practiced these exercises of spiritual formation might say to us: “The secret is not in what exercises we do, but how well we do them.”
There is no substitute for prayer, study, and worship…but do we give them our full attention?
Do we concentrate on every one of them to get the most out of them?
Do we pay attention to the details of intention, attitude, and intensity every time we address our practice?
Do we prepare our heads and hearts for our prayer, or worship, or study, and think about what we can do to make our walk with Jesus just a bit better than yesterday?
In other words, have we really given ourselves over to our practice?
Let us return to the practices of our faith that have created great saints among us. We waste precious time and effort when we look for the novel and the unique, as the very practices that will help us become dedicated disciples of Jesus are sitting at our feet, waiting for us to take them up. If we but give ourselves to them, they will give back tenfold.
(Visit the FB page The Micah Society to learn more about The Practices and what the Micah Society is all about. Pax!)