A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Back Pain and Attending to the Basics

In the summer of my thirtieth year (fourteen years ago), I started experiencing discomfort in my back as I planted my vegetable garden late one May. I ignored the aching and kept working. That evening as I lay on the the couch hurting, I stood up and immediately hit the floor with a thud. I was experiencing the most excruciating pain in my life. After going to the doctor and being x-rayed, I was diagosed with a case of severe lower back strain. After a week of rest and a regimen of exercises for my lower back taking ten minutes a day (which could be done in front of the television), I was back to new (well, almost) and ready to get back into the routine.

Growing up and through high school I was an avid athlete with average abilities. Even when I did not play formally, I kept active on the ball diamond and the basketball court, playing pick-up games or simply playing by myself shooting hoops at the park. But as I moved through my twenties, exercise fell off the list of priorities. But that experience of lower back strain motivated me to get in shape once again. For the past fourteen years I have lifted weights and engaged in aerobic activity (treadmill for a long time and lately an elliptical trainer, which I love). I exercise to enhance the quality of my life. I do not think it will necessarily lengthen my days since my DNA is probably in control of that; but I decided at the ripe young age of thirty I was going to do my part not to be bed-ridden or hobbling around as I got older. (Though I know, of course, that there are no guarantees.)

In the midst of all the exercising, I neglected one very important thing-- I failed to keep doing the lower back exercises. I spend several times a week working up a sweat and pumping iron, but because my back has been feeling so great, I wasn't taking ten minutes three to four times a week laying in front of the TV, stretching the muscles of my lower back. As a result, I am sitting at the computer as I write this in a fair amount of pain; and because my back is hurting, I am not able to attend to the more advanced kind of exercise I have been used to. In failing to keep up with the basics of stretching my back, I am unable to do anything physical at all.

In following Jesus, we must never forget to attend to the basics. We can have advanced degrees in Biblical studies and theology, we can know the profound mysteries of the faith and have insight into the things of God that few have, but if we do not continue to attend to the basics of what it means to follow Jesus and be in relationship with him, we will find our spiritual muscles will strain under the weight of life. It is Paul who tells the Corinthians that love is basic to discipleship and without it everything else means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3), and Jesus speaks specifically of not neglecting the weightier matters of the law such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness for other practices that are also necessary, but not substitutes for the basics. (Matthew 23:23-24). It can be easy in the midst of what must be attended to in life, particularly when it involves the responsibilities of ministry, to neglect what is so necessary to our discipleship.

As soon as my back is in shape again, I will resume my regimen of exercise; and I will also attend to the daily ten minutes necessary that will allow me to continue to keep in shape. So too, in the midst of my work as a pastor and professor, I must not neglect the basic disciplines of prayer, devotion, fasting, and practice. These will give subtance and meaning to my ministry and will enable me to be effective for God's Kingdom.


Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with this post...but saw this GREAT "Truth is Stranger than Fiction" article for you!!

Allan R. Bevere said...

Thanks Deborah, I will check it out.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good thoughts and good reminder, Allan.

I can neglect basics in my own life. I get by for awhile, but then I come to realize I'm "spinning my wheels" until I get back on doing basics of the faith, again.