Last year my wife asked me to participate in a spinning class with her at the gym. Once she explained that “spinning” was the trendy, fit-persons term for the stationary bike class, I agreed to try it. Once. Amidst the soundtrack of grunts, groans and an intense techno beat, I hopped on a bike near the back hoping not to be noticed by the instructor and started to “spin.”
About a minute later, soaked in sweat, I heard the instructor inform us that we are about to begin, and that we should all turn our resistance knobs to level 1. Oh good.
So this is how it works: The instructor, who looks like she lives on her stationary bike, shouts out how fast to pedal and where to set the level of resistance, and in unison, her spandex-suited stationary-biker gang submissively complies.
Or do they? Within the first minute I realized that the instructor has no way of knowing what level I’ve actually got my bike set at. As long as I make the same strained face and grunt with the rest of them, I could keep my resistance level much lower and I just might live through this class.
At the end of our “ride” our instructor congratulates us and informs us that we’ve “travelled” nearly 40 kilometers today.
Really? Where did we go? What did we see?
I’ve noticed that as good, church-going Christians we put a lot of emphasis on training, making sure that we are in perfect spiritual shape. We focus on eating the right food, drinking the right liquids (and not drinking the “wrong” ones…), wearing the right clothing, the right equipment and then we train. We spin and spin and spin…but do we ever really get anywhere? Do we ever really race?
I’d rather ride a mile outside, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting…than spin 100 miles in the cool climate-controlled atmosphere inside. If the rubber never hits the road then all we’re doing… is spinning.
How much of all this exerted effort is simply to impress the instructor or our fellow stationary riders? If we are just going the through the motions, grunting at the right times, dramatically toweling off the sweat at just the right moment, then it is all for naught. It is very easy to get caught up in the attention of people or leaders observing us as we work-out, showing off our skills and talents, finding fulfillment in their acknowledgement.
What good is all this “training” if it is never put to use? The church in general has an inward focus. Very little of what is done inside is targeted to applying our training in real-world situations outside. In fact, most of our energy is spent trying to make sure everyone is keeping up with their training, keeping each other accountable with devotions, service and lifestyle.
I liken this to the resistance knob, because nobody really knows what level you’ve got the bike set at, and as long as you make it look good, you’re fine. This culture places great importance on the outward appearance, and fosters relationships based on that, limiting the potential for real relationships that allow for failure and encourage growth.
There are churches that take the show on the road, as it were, and attempt to focus some attention outside and evangelize, but, for the most part, it isn’t done very well.
We keep this awkward distance, a buffer, between “their” way of doing things and “ours.” Instead of outfitting ourselves with equipment suitable for riding “their” way through the “dangerous” and “difficult” terrain of this world, with perhaps a road bike or mountain bike, it’s almost like we’d rather put our safe, stationary bikes on a trailer and tow them, and show the world what we can do from a safe, elevated platform. All the while we’re decked out in protective “armor-of-God” styled helmets and safety gear, possibly forgetting that it is designed to protect us from the devil’s schemes, and not from people.
It’s a ridiculous, exaggerated example, but sometimes our way of doing things and the language we use can seem as absurd as riding a stationary bike towed on a trailer.
Well, I’m looking for a new bike. See you on the open road. Me and Jesus will be the ones riding with no helmets on.