Now be honest with me here, can you truly say that you enjoy your Christian life? Does everyday present you with joy or does it feel like a chore, a drudge, something to be endured rather than enjoyed?
I'd guess that most of us fall somewhere along a continuum from chore to joy, and that it changes through the course of a day or month or year. For some their life as a follower of Christ has become a rut in which they have become stuck and for others it is a continual adventure from start to finish.
I'm reflecting on this for two reasons. first. because I;m always aware of my own us and downs and secondly because of something I read in Born to Run. We are a fascinating creation. In fact, whether you subscribe to a creation or evolutionary theory of first origins (or even a combination of the two), we are a remarkable creature. The argument for an inherent running gene so-to-speak lies in our structure as much as anything else. For example we have a ligament in our necks that only mammals that run share. Those that walk do not have it. We have the ability to sweat away heat and breathe and run at the same time. something no other mammal can do. We may not have the fat out speed of a deer or cheetah, and we don't have the claws and teeth of a lion, but we do have endurance. We can't out-sprint a squirrel but we can run one to exhaustion!
But we don't generally run. Why? Because it's become a pastime, no longer a way of life, it has become a wearisome chore that's painful and un-enjoyable. We run to keep fit or to lose weight (unsuccessfully because we don't change our diet). And what's worse we run badly when we do run. If the book is correct, then we've been suckered by marketing into running in the only way guaranteed to hurt ourselves. As we persevere we invest in more cushioning and more strapping to make running bearable. Eventually we give up, buy a large screen TV and watch other run instead.
Now reflect those thoughts into discipleship.
We buy devotional guides to help us learn how to do what ought to come naturally. That's not to say that they are bad things. Just like running shoes, if you run properly then you can run in anything, then if you are a follower of Jesus then you can probably use any guide you like if you've got the basics of following down. And the worst thing we can do is sit and watch others do our devotional life for us. We're too busy, too injured too out of shape, so we watch others do what we ought to be able to do but can't motivate ourselves to do.
Somehow we've lost the joy of discipleship, of running with Jesus for the joy of running with him. It's become a checklist, a programme a means to an end instead of an intrinsic part of who we are. We are all made in the image of God. If we are born to run then we are also born to reflect God's image.
I went running this morning for the time in years. Proper running. not just running part of the route I usually walk, but setting out to run all the way. I almost made it. I took a breather towards the end, but ran 90% of the 4Km I set out to do. I tried to run light and run properly. I ran for the joy of running. And now my legs ache a little! But that's okay because I ran. I worked my muscles in a different way and of course they will ache.
If you try following Jesus for the joy of following him it will be different. I don't yet have a recipe to offer you that will ensure it will work or a pattern to follow that will promise joy. Maybe that's just not possible. But I wonder how different our faith might look if somehow we could reinject a measure of simple joyfulness into what it means to be a Christ-follower.
Maybe the next step on from functional discipleship will be barefoot discipleship!