So sport is currently a running commentary in my life right now.
Recently, I bought a new bike and have been enjoying cycling out on some country lanes here in the UK. I have been relishing the sense of well being that exercise, raising your heart-rate and good old fresh air bring. Yesterday, I got an email from the London Olympics confirming that I have been one of the lucky ones and have four tickets for ‘Artistic Gymnastics’ (OK, not the most exciting event in my mind, my two young girls are very excited—but I would happily trade them in for the 100metres final if anyone wants to swap!?)
I have also been busy writing a booklet for the Olympic year, which focuses on spiritual practices for those who are sporty, active and extrovert in temperament. All of the practices seem to involve the body, but they also seem largely geared towards the introverted, quiet, contemplative types. We’ve been exploring ways to pray, hear Scripture, find silence and solitude whilst out running, swimming, cycling and working out.
Here in London right now Wimbledon is on. You know when Wimbledon has started, because it starts in rain in June (and we’ve had a lot of rain recently!) It’s amazing to watch these top tennis players run, stretch, serve, volley, pant and in some cases groan very loudly for hours at a time. The fitness is incredible and the standard outstanding—even in the early rounds. But you are also aware that they keep this up, tournament to competition for 11 months of the year. That this isn’t just about the time on the court—this is a life of commitment and total dedication, not just to hitting the ball, but also to diet, working out, stretching, flexibility, study, rest and recuperation.
Typically all the local tennis courts become full as people are inspired by their tennis heroes and the warmer, lighter evenings—but a week or so after Wimbledon the courts will be emptier again. I guess that’s the difference between admiring and following. Admirers can watch tennis for hours and for two weeks whilst Wimbledon is on they get inspired, perhaps even get off the sofa and play a bit – but a follower is truly dedicate— they play, they train, they are constantly inspired by their heroes and heroines, they are in it for the long run and it transforms them.
In what ways can the idea of ‘admiring and following’ be applied to being disciples of Jesus?
Can extroverts, sport loving, active people practice disciplines of prayer, silence and the study of Scripture—how might this work for them (or for you?)
Rob Hare is the Lyfe & Spiritual Formation Officer at Bible Society UK.