When I was six years old, my mom took my younger sister and me to join a soccer team. I remember walking toward the group of kids on the field that first day of practice and being truly petrified. I was shy, so meeting a group of strangers filled me with great anxiety. And besides that, I didn’t know the first thing about soccer.
The soccer attempt was short-lived. (I don’t recall that I ever went back after that first day’s experience.)
But my sister and I joined a girls’ city softball league shortly after that. And the extent of my native athletic talent should be made plain to you with this fun fact:
I played girls’ softball for three years and only hit the ball once.
My freshman year in high school, I tried out for the volleyball team and was surprised to discover I liked it. I was also surprised to discover I made first cuts at tryouts. The coach thought I was quick and disciplined at the conditioning drills. Also, I hit a pretty mean serve, and I could bump the ball with the best of them.
Spiking and setting? Not so much. I was cut from the team in the second round.
I did, however, excel at swimming. My older brother and I went out for the team my sophomore year and were both moved to varsity within a few swim meets. But as much as I loved the conditioning experience of swimming laps and following drills, I hit a plateau and never grew beyond a certain point. Plus, anxiety crippled me at the swim meets. I swam for one year and then quit.
All this to say, exercise has never really been my friend.
And yet I’m experiencing the way exercise can be a form of prayer these days.
Earlier this year, due to a couple of events, I began to explore the importance of the body in our lives — especially our spiritual lives — and have been experimenting in different small ways with what I’m learning. I have such a long way to go in truly understanding all this, and especially in integrating it into my daily life and behavior, but there is one thing I’ve noticed.
When I think of my body as part of the whole of who I am, exercise becomes a form of prayer.
I push and pull against resistance with the weights. I expand and contract my muscles with stretches and reps.
And all along, as it’s hard, I’m thinking, This body is yours, God. You gave it to me to steward. It houses my heart, mind, and soul. I’m doing this for you.
Do you ever experience exercise as prayer?