Monday, October 24, 2011

Concerning Standards and Integrity

 1 Peter 1:13-16  Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.  14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.  15 Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;  16 for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

One of the absolutely beautiful things about Crossfit is the level playing field. Unless of course you talk to any Crossfitter over 6'. They may tell you a different story. However, that isn't what I mean by level playing field. What I mean by this is that everyone does the same workout, with some differences for skill and capacity. In a given gym on a given day, you will have a Crossfit Games competitor and a mother of three doing the same workout. Both will complete it, but in different times. However, the standards that each is measured by are the same. The clock. And the form. However, it is the form that is drawing my attention right now.
The clock definitely speaks volumes about an athlete's performance. However, without adherence to the proper form, the time becomes meaningless. Enter the standards. Do you achieve your arms to total lock out on a Shoulder Press. Does your hip crease go below parallel during your squat? Does your chest hit the deck during burpees or push ups and so on. These standards allow for us as athletes to compete with each other but also with our selves. 

Anyone who has been “no repped” during a WOD or competition knows how frustrating, disheartening and borderline infuriating it can be when someone tells you you have not held to the standards. But hold to them we must. This is our level playing field. Everyone is held to the same standard. As long as there is someone there to watch.

Peter was great, if not a bit thick headed and impetuous, when Jesus was around. He was the disciple of disciples. Jesus picked him as the cornerstone leader of the fledgling Church. Yet mere moments after Jesus was arrested Peter was denying him. Mere days after his death, Peter was back to fishing instead of continuing to hold to the standards Jesus had set for him. It is not that Peter didn't have anything to go on either. He had just spent three years following Jesus closely throughout the area we now call Israel and Palestine. But when Jesus was gone, Peter lost his standards. He didn't have his coach staring him down looking for the attempt to do what's easier instead of right that all coaches know is lurking around the corner. It didn't stop there either. 

The Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament because the churches he helped to found were straying, some times drastically from the standards they had been given. If it wasn't a son sleeping with his father's wife in Corinth, it was a group demanding that every male in the church get circumcised in Galatia. Then of course there were the people in Thessalonika that decided that they didn't need to work or doing anything at all since Jesus was going be back like 2 days ago. The point here is that Paul had to remind his “athletes” to adhere to the standards of the faith. 

This became particularly crucial when the Church started meeting fierce opposition in the form of oppression and persecution.  It became a capitol crime to be a Christian and this is where the metaphorical polymerized tree sap was hitting the metaphorical paved surface for travel.  The decision was no longer just between remaining a jew/ gentile and becoming Christian.  It was a decision between life and death.  It was that point in Murph where you realize that you still have another mile to run and all you want to do is quit because you can't handle whats coming.   And this is where the Christians of that and many ages after have said, "I will carry on no matter what."  Inherent to this is also a commitment to adhering to the standards of the Church as well.  At any point the church could have lessened the resistance from the surrounding culture if it had compromised on some of its core claims.  But it didn't.  At least for a long time it didn't. 

I think this has been lost in the Church. We have become so focused with “getting people in the door” that we do not ask for them to adhere to the standards of the church but instead change the standards to fit the people. In Crossfit terms this is the equivalent of saying a single under counts as a double under and a Back Squat counts if you only go a quarter of the way down. You don't like going to full depth? No problem, lets change the standards. 

Now do not get me wrong here, I have no delusion of saying that all Christians follow the standards all of the time. This very fact is the reason Jesus came to save us from ourselves. The standards are doable, but it is our nature to try to find short cuts or do something that feels better. "Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires you formerly had in ignorance." 
Full depth squats do not feel as good as quarter squats, but they are in fact what brings life. They are the standard for a reason. God's standards are standards for a reason. But we don't always have someone watching everything we do do we? This is where integrity and virtue enter the conversation. 

In my time in Crossfit, I have come to realize that times that seem too good to be true many times are. Sometimes this comes from a simple mistake in the rep structure. Guilty.  Sometimes it comes from a miscalculation of the distance run/ walking lunged. Guilty. But sometimes, it comes from abandoning form and seeking our own standard of what is right or wrong.  I pray that I am not the one to do it, but know that in the end I am almost certainly guilty of it. It is our way as human beings, disciplined though we may be most of the time.

This is why community is so essential.  Why coaching is so essential.  Crossfit focuses so diligently on building the community and keeping each other accountable.  This is something the Church needs more of.  Most Crossfitters will admit that they need coaching.  They are fully aware of their desire to "cheat" because of the difficulty of the workouts/ movements and because of it are thoroughly aware of their need for someone to watch and correct them. 

Oh how I wish this were the case in the Church.  So often it seems that Christians think they can do it on their own.  "I don't need to go to Church because God is out in the boat/ on the trail/ in my nice comfy bed with me."  It's just me and Jesus.  That is all fine and good.  But who is keeping you accountable?  Who is making sure you are actually disciplining yourself properly instead of getting into bad habits?  Human beings have been notoriously bad at seeing ourselves for who we really are.  Crossfitters without coaches are extremely likely to have bad form, bad habits and bad standards.  Christians who never go to Church to be with others and have some "coaching" from a pastor or peers are extremely likely to have bad theology, bad habits and bad standards. 

Let us all work toward standards.  Let us all work toward integrity.  Doing the Christian life and Crossfit right  entails trying to get better and meet the standards set out for us.  Not finding ways around them.  This is often hard but joyous work.

If Crossfit ever gets "easy," you aren't doing it right.  If the Christian life ever gets "easy," you aren't doing it right.

Discipline yourselves.  Have standards.  Demonstrate integrity.