Monday, April 21, 2014

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 an interest in personal fitness. When I was a young man I took a lot of "violent exercise,” and tried to be a "great feeder." I’m a bit stove–in now, but I still manage a little dog–walking, light lifting and Carolyn manages my diet. I find these efforts "beneficial" to use Paul's modest word (1 Timothy 4:8). 

I don’t exercise to extend my life span, for such things are determined in the counsels of heaven, nor am I concerned so much with quality of life issues, though exercise does reduce stress and can produce a happier frame of mind. I exercise to take care of my “horse.” 

I'm thinking here of a remark David Brainerd made to a friend. Brainerd, as you may know, devoted himself to missionary work among Native Americans and drove himself relentlessly and without thought for his health. He died at age 29, having worn out his body. "I have killed my horse," he said "and cannot continue my journey." 

I wouldn't disparage Brainerd's zeal 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 done if he had taken better care of his horse. 

The Wise Man provides some balance: "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory is from the Lord" (Proverbs 21:31). There’s no spiritual power in physical exercise; it’s just a practical consideration.

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


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