Long ago, ancient Hebrews constructed tents made of black goat hair, which was spun into strands and woven together, forming panels measuring some 2 feet wide and covering the length of the tent. This took about a year to complete and was primarily the ancient method of tent-making.
Isaiah 54:2 says, “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.” When I think of this verse, I think of us expanding our potential, capabilities, and seeing an increase in the church. The intent of God has never changed but if this growth is going to continue, the church must be willing to be stretched beyond her comfort zone.
I believe God wants us to grow in our triune being today, by enlarging our capacity for others – in mind, body and spirit. Eph 4:15 exhorts, “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.”
Here are a few principles I’ve learnt from the physical training regime I’ve embarked on this year:
1. Slow is Fast
In society today, we live in an age of instant gratification, and when gratification is instant, it’s usually short-lived and hollow – like the crash diet and weight loss programme you did before your wedding day. In the film by the Malloy Brothers, ‘Slow Is Fast’, Dan Malloy made a discovery on a trip where he and his friends set out to bike and surf 700 miles off the California coastline.
He said, “I’ve learned more about the people and places here than I’ve had in 34 years and a thousand trips by car. Maybe slow really is fast.” What a fascinating realisation to have learnt and experienced more in one trip than the entirety of his life surfing. In contrast, when we train physically, we’re bombarded by quick fix methods and images of bodily perfection – feels like sprinting in a marathon.
In Matt 6:25-34, Jesus illustrates how flowers grow, though they do not toil nor spin. This speaks of our capacity to resist a force by breaking down muscle and rebuilding; all through a process of intentionally slowing our movements to create tension over time. This is repeated hundreds of times to create the effect of long-lasting change in our body structure and strength. Maybe true strength is developed when we slow things and worry not about the outcome, but the process of enjoying each moment.
2. Small is Big
Starting an exercise routine is more difficult and daunting than meets the eye largely because people do not know where to begin. One’s perspective can create unrealistic expectations that further perpetuates negative mindsets. Disappointment and unfulfilled expectations can then start to creep in and leave you more disappointed than hopeful.
Craig Groeschel in his book, ‘Divine Direction’, taught that ‘It’s small choices no one sees that result in the big impact everyone wants.’ When you choose to forgive your spouse instead of holding on to resentment, no one sees that happen. But the evidence is clear in your marriage. People may tell you how great they think your kids are without realising that their maturity happened over time, growing slowly out of the small decisions, daily boundaries, and tiny course corrections you planted throughout their lives.
In the words of Dave Ramsey: “Success is like a slow cooker – it takes time, and a series of small, intentional steps every day. These add up over time, and ordinary people become extraordinary people.” It’s easy to despise the day of small beginnings that often come with hard work and little help. Small beginnings usually offer tall resistance and modest encouragement. Nevertheless, whatever God has called you to do, “do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (Zech. 4:10, NLT).” Start small, keep going at it, and don’t quit.
3. Core Strength
Like a well-built athlete, getting a strong core can be as painstaking as weaving a Bedouin tent. Our core helps to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury, just as the tent protects its inhabitants from the environment. In other words, our core gives us our stability and foundations to lengthen, to strengthen, and spare not.
The effort, skill and resources taken to craft new tents were considerably high. However, the outcome is something that could be passed down from generation to generation. Let us be like the athlete who learns his craft, builds his core to improve his skills; who slows intentionally in training to be fast in the race; who sets small goals to achieve greater results. Are we not runners in a race trying to win a prize?