I don't want this to turn into an advertisement for yoga but I do want to give you a few of the reasons why I, as a Christian, participate in a traditionally mystical practice. I'm never going to be able to convince all of you that our intentions are an important factor in any endeavor. I don't go to yoga to align my chakras or meditate on the universe. I know some have argued that if that was and is it's purpose then that's it's purpose no matter what my intentions.
No problem, I don't want to cause anyone to stumble, please stop reading.
The world loves to remind us that holidays we celebrate, everyday practices, habits and tools we use, were once used for evil purposes. If you look hard enough you can be offended at everything. Don't get me wrong. We should be mindful, and if Yoga raises flags for you, then don't do it. For me, it's exercise and a time to pray and honor the Lord by working on paying attention to the temple He's given me to care for. I've been lucky enough to find Godly people who are trying to do the same thing.
Believe it or not, I'm going to get to the actual point now. 😉
During practice, our amazing instructor reads scripture at various points and sets our intention of focus as we meditate on the Lord. I'm not sure what it was that week but the Lord kept bringing to mind the idea of yoga being an example of striving and surrender at the same time and I thought that was an apt analogy for our spiritual lives. When I got home I tried looking up that idea but all the searches brought me to articles that admonished people to stop striving and surrender. I get that wiser heads than mine have wrestled with the issues of setting aside our need for control which is very true. We shouldn't be trying to take control out of God's hands.
What if there's room in the definition of striving that is good and right for Christians to participate in?
What if striving and surrender aren't mutually exclusive?
As human beings we often tense up when we are striving physically. Pushing a weight often leads to tension in parts of the body we aren't meant to be pushing with. My trainer has had to tell me more than once to relax my shoulders while I'm doing a chest press. I had a friend describe her labor to me in those terms. She was trying, for the babies sake, to relax so she wouldn't hurt him as he was being born, while at the same time pushing to bring about the birth. If that juxtaposition can be physically true, then why not spiritually? While I am absolutely supposed to relinquish control to the sovereign God, that doesn't mean I sit like a lump until God drops things in my lap. Life in Christ is a pursuit, an adventure and a quest. I am to walk with God! I am to seek Him, follow Him, pursue Him. Those are not passive words. There is a difference between seeking to get things done/make things happen and striving to see God in our every circumstance. While I absolutely have to watch myself to avoid falling back into a to-do list toting "Martha", I absolutely should strive to become a "Mary". In yoga, some of the most relaxed looking poses are the most active. Every muscle is engaged. That's what I want to strive for in my spiritual life as well. Every fiber of my being engaged and focused, poised and ready for my Saviors call.
- If you're unfamiliar with the Biblical reference then the short story is Martha was serving the household by making sure food was on the table, drinks were in the cups, stuff was cleaned and hostess duties were being performed while her sister let her do all the work while she sat at Jesus feet. When Martha ask Jesus to make her sister help her, Jesus told her that Mary had chosen better. Jesus wasn't saying that physical practicalities weren't important or necessary...just that they weren't AS important or necessary.
I don't cease striving because God is in control, I continue striving because God is in control. What I strive for changes. I don't strive to make things happen the way I want. I strive to pursue what God wants, which is for me to know Him and to help others know Him better. While God doesn't need my help to glorify His name, I am going to pursue that goal with abandon. I will strive to praise Him, to glorify Him and to know Him.
I admit this might be an argument of semantics but I honestly believe it's possible to surrender control to a Sovereign God and actively strive to pursue Him. Are there areas in your life that you need to give up your control of the outcome and instead strive for peace, patience or gratitude?