If you remember one thing from the 1981 British film Chariots of Fire, it’s probably the iconic music played while a pack of runners glide alongside the ocean. But in terms of the film’s dialogue, there’s one line that stands out to me. Eric Liddell is being reprimanded by his sister for neglecting his responsibilities before God as he devotes his focus toward competitive running. Liddell responds, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
If only exercise were so easy for all of us, right? It must be nice to be an Olympic athlete who enjoys spiritual ecstasy while his legs pump and his heart pounds, but for many of us, when we exercise, we feel what could only be theologically-categorized as God’s wrath–a sweaty, heaving state of misery.
But notice how Liddell didn’t say he feels God’s pleasure when he exercises. For many of us, “exercise” is something we do for external benefits, an artificial activity we perform as a means to an end. We go for walks and do push-ups to lose weight, to raise our HDL, or to look better at the beach. We don’t exercise because it’s inherently good; we exercise because it’s good for us.
Liddell, on the other hand, feels God’s pleasure when he runs. As his pulse races and his skin drips, his muscles cycling perfectly between tense and relaxed, he feels the splendor that girds creation. He’s exercising in the literal sense: “exercising” his body, exploring its capacities, with innocent pleasure. We see this everyday on playgrounds as children sprint and skip and climb with shrieks of delight.
So if your whole body aches from your eyelashes to your pinky toenail when you even think about exercise, how can you begin to experience joyful activity of the Eric Liddell variety? That’s a post for another day, but until then, maybe this video will give you some ideas.
How do you transform exercise into joyful activity?
(Image by Flickr user Dan4th Nicholas /via Creative Commons)