Spiritualizing My Sore Knees

It has been a week since our epic hiking adventure, and I am still hobbling around with sore knees. There is no swelling, and I don’t have too much pain unless I overdo things or use stairs. I can walk from one end of the apartment to the other; I can stand and sit and carry Torre, but to actually get out and run errands or go to the park slows me down to turtle pace. I think my muscles are still in disbelief at what we did and are worried they’ll give me ideas if they just work without complaining!

I was talking to God about my sore knees and asked if there was any lesson or something I should get out of this, and it turns out there is. So here you have the spiritual lessons I am learning from this physical pain:

  1. Don’t do all your training indoors
    Here’s the thing – I’m in reasonably good shape, and it was a huge blow to my pride to be so crippled by physical activity I thought I could do. I even did a workout video the night before we left to go camping! I can climb the stairs to our apartment on the 11th floor, even carrying Torre; I can do pull-ups and push-ups and tricep dips and squats and mountain climbers, and I will hate them and sweat buckets then feel great after. But that kind of training doesn’t translate so well to the complexity of hiking through back country terrain. My knees basically died because all the little muscles that stabilize them became exhausted because they’re used to my feet landing on firm, level ground.In faith, it is just as risky to do all your spiritual training in safe, stable, controlled environments. There’s a place for that, sure, but if you only pray or read Scripture or discuss theology as an exercise at home or at church, you may find yourself unprepared for the nuances that come up out in the world. Many people find the Christian message to be shallow or hypocritical because we tend to gloss over complexities that make us uncomfortable, especially if we don’t think it affects us. We often build arguments against sins and sinners to confirm that we have made good choices, when really we just emphasize the blind spots we have to our own failings.
  2. Don’t count on an identity or achievement from the past
    So part of me thought I could handle this huge hike because I’m in good shape, and the rest of me knew I could do it because I grew up on the West Coast where we hike all the time. Reality check: I’ve lived in Toronto for 8 years now. I’ve gone hiking maybe 20 times in those 8 years, and probably 16 of those times were on paved or gravel trails.This is a huge lesson for me because I am constantly battling complacency in my spiritual life. I love God and I want to live for him, but sometimes I get so caught up in my identity as a Christian that I neglect to actually do the things that define my relationship with God. Then I’m surprised and disappointed when I find myself burnt out and disconnected. My thinking goes something like, “Why am I struggling so much lately? Why can’t it be like a couple months ago when I was all excited about the joy of the Lord?” And then I realize I tried to coast on that great truth without staying connected to God through prayer and reading my Bible.

I’m sure there’s more I can learn from this experience, but those two points are my focus right now. It’s scary to post this because I don’t want to pat myself on the back for having learned a lesson and slip right into old, lame habits, but I also want to share these challenges God has given me in case it can encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and/or break free from complacency. I’m really excited to feel so engaged in my faith, to connect with neighbours who I’d love to share the gospel with, to be serving passionately at church and loving God’s word. I just don’t want this passion to be like our campfire that consumed all the kindling then died because the bigger logs didn’t catch.

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