This post is a continuation of last week’s You Are Not Your “Fran” Time.
Just about every Christ-following CrossFitter I know struggles to manage the tension between being in love with a sport in which every second, every rep, and every pound counts and embracing a way of life in which our identity and sense of self-worth is found in the risen Christ rather than our performance at the gym.
This tension has been anchored deep in our psyche by a culture that continually broadcasts the message that our value as human beings and our achievements are inextricably connected. Many of us heard this message at a young age and believed it. How could we do otherwise? The rewards for making good grades or excelling in sports were substantial.
It didn’t take long to figure out that self-improvement was the key to capturing the attention of our parents, teachers, and coaches and essential to gaining popularity among our peers.
I remember when I discovered in Jr. High that being the best basketball player on the court was the secret to making my dreams comes true. The more points I scored the more compliments I got from adults and the more notes I got from cute girls. In the eighth grade, my popularity skyrocketed because of basketball.
Throughout High School my identity was rooted in being a good basketball player. I took pride in being a four-year varsity starter, one of the leading scorers in the region, and for having the best free throw percentage in the state of Texas my senior year (91.9%).
It is unnecessary to share everything I just wrote in the previous sentence. Yet I felt compelled to include it because I desperately want everyone who reads this post to know that back in the day I was a legitimate athlete. I discovered CrossFit fifteen years too late to be a great CrossFitter, so I have to find other ways of validating my place in a roomful of fire-breathers. So I tell stories about the good ole days that pre-date Google and can’t be checked for accuracy.
Why do I find it necessary to do this? Because even though I’ve been a Christ-follower my entire life, I’ve always struggled to embrace the idea that my worth as a human being is determined by God’s love for me and not my athletic performance.
There’s an story in Bible about a group of people who get together to pool their wisdom, resources, and technology and start building a tower that reaches into the heavens. Their motive for undertaking a project that God says is a bad idea? “So that we may make a name for ourselves.” (Genesis 10:1-9)
Some things never change.
Our attempts to make a name for ourselves with our achievements stretch beyond ancient architecture and modern athletics. We can root our identity in our grade-point average, the number of people we slept with during college, how much money we make, the size of our house, the kind of car we drive, the label on our clothes, the level of knowledge and expertise we demonstrate in our work, and our religious activity.
One can argue that our desire to make a name for ourselves has led to countless achievements that have advanced our civilization and improved the human condition. One can also point to numerous examples of wildly successful people who are profoundly unhappy. Achievement is a great way to build a reputation, make money, and maybe even make the world a better place, but it’s a shaky foundation on which to base an identity.
You can read more about the connections between CrossFit and spiritual fitness in Train For Something Greater, available in Kindle format.