How Exercise Can be a form of Liturgy

liddell-chariots-daughter“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”- Eric Liddell

Well, God didn’t make me fast, but I still feel his pleasure when I run.  It all started about 5 months ago.  I was tired of being the FAT DAD, so I decided to make a change.  I started exercising 6 days a week and changed my eating habits.  In addition to lifting weights, I started swimming laps and running outside.  The first time I tried swimming laps, I could only do one little length of the pool at a time.  I had to stop and catch my breath so I wouldn’t drown! Now, I can swim a half a mile without stopping (35 lengths).  When I started running, I could barely make it to a half a mile before I needed to stop and walk.  This past Saturday, I ran 9 miles without stopping.

I love that I am WAY more healthy than I was 5 months ago.  But even more than that- I love that I have discovered a whole new way to connect with God.

There is this idea in the Bible that we can breathe God in.  The Hebrew word for God’s spirit is Ruach.  It means “breath” or “wind”.  We see in the beginning of our story that God breathed his ruach into Adam to give him life and spirit.  In Ezekiel 37, God tells the prophet to speak to a valley of dry bones, and those old bones received God’s ruach and they come to life.  After Jesus rose from the dead, John 20 tells us that he breathed on his disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

When I run or when I swim, there is a definite rhythm to my breathing in and my breathing out.  As I sweat and strain to push myself, I breathe out my sorrow and my sin.  I breath in God’s Ruach– his Spirit. I exhale my anger and self-righteousness and I inhale God’s grace and peace.

God is not distant from us.  He is near.  He is present.  He is breath.

He breathes out, and we breathe in; this breathing in and breathing out is life.” (Messages Given to the Working Saints, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)

I would love to encourage you to get physical with your worship.  And as your exert yourself, breathe out all your pain and hurts and breathe in God’s healing and forgiveness.  I have a few Psalms that I have memorized that I recite to myself as I run or swim.  Its another way to center myself and to refocus on God.  If you have never connected physical activity with worship- give it a try! Even today- take a walk and enjoy the beautiful Fall colors.  And as your breathe in and out, breath in God and his life and spirit.

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