I hate running on the treadmill, so whenever I do I make sure to watch something on my Kindle in order to distract myself from the horrendous boredom of running without moving. And that is exactly what I was doing a few weeks ago when I watched Test of Fitness, a documentary about creating the ultimate test of fitness, the CrossFit Games. While I am not a Crossfit athlete (I prefer Baristi Workout), I do have a ton of respect for the sport and enjoy watching all their youtube videos and competitions. However, I never expected a sport I watch from afar to actually impact my spiritual life, but it did.
In order for me to explain the spiritual impact Crossfit had on me, I first have to explain their philosophy of fitness. In Crossfit, fitness is not measured by how well you perform at a task you trained for but by how well you perform at a task you did not train for. In other words, Crossfit defines fitness, not as what you are capable of when everything is in your favor but as what you are capable when everything is against you. As such, the Crossfit game organizers keep the events that the athletes will compete in a total secret. None of the competitors know what they are going to have to do when they show up to the games. Unlike the Olympics where runners know they will run, how far they will run, and how fast they need to do it in, Crossfit athletes have no idea. While they know they are going to do pullups they have no idea how many will be required of them or what event they will have to compete in immediately after. Thus, in order to prepare for the games Crossfit athletes have to include a ton of variety in their fitness program that builds every aspect of physical strength, agility, endurance, and power as much as possible with the hope that come game day their body will be capable of performing tasks they have never done before.
Sounds crazy, but this is the reason why Crossfit athletes are regarded as the fittest people on earth. Unlike Olympians who train for 1-3 events, Crossfitters train for much, much more and then test their abilities in ways that are often out of their comfort zones. Why do they do this? Again, it all boils down to Crossfit's philosophy of fitness. How well are you capable of performing in events you haven't prepared for? That's the true test of fitness.
And then it hit me. It's so easy to be like Jesus when I have money. The cushion of being financially stable eliminates a ton of stress that magically turns me into a lovely person. Same goes with sleep. Give me 8 hours of sleep and I'll be the best Christian you've ever seen. Food? Health? Friends? A nice house, car, and a job? You give me all that and yes, I will be a phenomenal Christian. But take away my food, my sleep, my comfortable bed and my money, give it a few days for me to really feel the pinch, and wallah - you will have yourself an irritated, unloving, easily angered maniac who questions God and whines more than a violin. But what if true Christianity is more like Crossfit? What if being a Jesus follower is meant to be more like the worlds toughest sport? In other words, what if true Christianity is measured, not by how well you reflect Jesus when everything is in your favor but by how well you reflect him when the whole world seems to be against you. No money. No job. Little sleep. Bad health. Lonely. Still loving. That's the true test of faith.
Now that is what I want my Christianity to be like. I don't want to be spiritually fit enough to handle the easy stuff. I don't want to be spiritually fit enough to conquer the ant hills. I want a spiritual fitness that works when the tough stuff comes, the kind of stuff there's no Bible verse for. The kind of stuff no one preaches about. The kind of stuff that takes you to your breaking point. I want the spiritual fitness of Jesus who, though hungry, tired, and lonely, overcame the devil in the desert against impossible odds. And the only way to have this spiritual fitness is to daily surrender to Jesus and daily seek a deeper experience with him. It requires intentional seeking, intentional surrender, and intentional faith. As Paul said,
Athletes in training are very strict with themselves, exercising self-control over desires, and for what? For a wreath that soon withers or is crushed or simply forgotten. That is not our race. We run for the crown that we will wear for eternity. So I don’t run aimlessly. I don’t let my eyes drift off the finish line. When I box, I don’t throw punches in the air. I discipline my body and make v it my slave so that after all this, after I have brought the gospel to others, I will still be qualified to win the prize (1 Cor. 9: 25-27).