My Mary Kathryn, 9, is getting involved in competitive gymnastics this year in a gym in Lexington. I spend one evening each week watching her at work. Equipment of all aeronautical sorts covers the expansive gym floor. The gymnasts systematically work from one station to the next doing their exercises.
These young men and women, with the instruction of the masters (i.e. their coaches), push the human body to infinity and beyond. Through a thousand falls and missteps and almost routine crash and burn efforts they discipline their bodies in the movements of grace. As I scan the gym floor, almost everyone is pulling an epic fail somewhere.
At the same time, the place almost constantly flashes with bursts of perfection. I’m not talking about the perfection of flawless performance. Flawless performance may or may not be present. I’m talking about the brand of perfect that happens when someone goes head long, all-in completely abandoned “let’s kick fear in the face” gear. It might look like the greatest gymnast in the world or it may resemble Napoleon Dynamite’s famous dance routine. This perfection emerges when one loves the game or the good more than they fear failure. This is the love that sends fear packing.
I think this may be part of why Paul employed the imagery of the gymnasium to talk about the life of the Holy Spirit in the frail frame of human persons.
“. . . train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8
Grace takes practice. It requires severe disciplines of dependence and postures of humility pushing all that’s inside a person past the limits of their capacity. Though filled with failure, there are regular flashes of glory when someone goes “all-in,” giving us a glimpse of what human beings were intended for.
The discipline of grace leads to the revelation of glory.
Oh to be a gymnast of the Spirit.