The Saturday before Father’s Day in 2011, I was working in the garden, digging a small hole for a small plant. It was not strenuous work, and took all of about two minutes. I patted the plant in its new home, stood up, and nearly collapsed as a sharp pain erupted in my lower back.
Welcome to the world of the ruptured disk.
We meet twice a week. My vocabulary has greatly expanded to include terms such as cat’n’camels, Big 40s, the dead bug, and the cobra. As in, “Let’s get warmed up with some cat’n’camels” (down on all fours, you arch your back and then push your stomach down, usually about 20 times). The cobra is keeping your hips on the mat as you push the upper part of your body with your arms. Big 40s is lying flat on your back and doing four different exercises with your legs ten times each.
And the dead bug – my favorite – is lying flat, arms extended on the floor behind your head, as you use your feet and legs to life a ball as your arms come up to receive it, move back down to touch the ball on the floor behind your head, and then back up to your feet. Twenty times.
All of it is hard work, but I’m feeling the improvements. All of the work and exercise is doing what it needs to do – strengthen the core and get back in shape.
In The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges writes as length on the choices we have to make if we are serious about living a Christian life – and the importance of discipline in making and sticking to those choices. Like my personal training being aimed at increasing strength, there is a reason for what the Bible teaches – and that’s to change our conduct.
“The practice of putting off sinful attitudes and actions and putting Christ-like character involves a constant series of choices,” he says. “We choose in every situation which direction we will go. It is through these choices that we develop Christ-like habits of living. Habits are developed by repetition, and it is in the arena of moral choices that we develop spiritual habit patterns.”
Developing new habits is no slam dunk. It’s hard – and it’s hard work. You mess up, and you have to force yourself to get right back at it. But you know where you’re going, and you know the value of what you’re doing.
Every Monday and Thursday morning – early morning – really early morning – I’m getting put through the paces. It’s stretching, it’s weights, it’s core, it’s the bear crawl, it's the bird dog. I force myself not to look at the clock or my watch, because it‘s not about how fast the hour will be over but about doing the things I need to do in that hour. Sometimes my muscles are sore for a day or two afterward, because they’re not used to this kind of workout.
But I know it’s important. I’m feeling the change.
Even with the dead bug.