Sunday, January 3, 2010

On Caring For Your Horse

"And so in gymnastics, if a man takes violent exercise and is a great feeder, at first the high condition of his body fills him with confidence and spirit, and he becomes twice the man that he was."

-Plato, The Republic

I was a physical education major in college and have always had some interest in physical fitness. When I was a younger man I took a lot of "violent exercise" as Plato suggests, and tried to be a "great feeder." Now I walk several times a week, do some light lifting and let Carolyn manage my diet. I find these efforts "beneficial" to use Paul's modest word (1 Timothy 4:8).

These days my exercise is not so much for physical strength and appearance-both are wasting assets. I exercise to take care of my horse.

I'm thinking, of course, of David Brainerd's oft-quoted remark. Brainerd, who devoted himself to missionary work among Native Americans, drove himself relentlessly and without thought for his health. (One biographer described him as "a flagellant on horseback.") He died at 29 years of age, having worn out his body. "I have killed my horse," he said "and cannot continue my journey."

I would not disparage Brainerd's work for a moment, for his efforts and diary have turned many to serve God here and abroad. Furthermore, he was driven by the love of Christ and there can be no higher motivation.  But I can't help but wonder what he might have accomplished if he had  taken better care of his body. Horse people know you must care first for your horse if you expect it to carry the load.[1]

I think Paul would would recommend walking. He did a lot of it in his time.


[1] The Wise Man said, "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory is from the Lord" (Proverbs 21:31). It's worth noting that there is no spiritual power in preparedness. It is a practical consideration.

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