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One-Legged Believer

My wife owns the workout video series P90X, which features a hyper-fit, 50-year-old guy named Tony Horton. Tony has the face of a heavily Botoxed 39-year-old, the body of a 23-year-old, unnaturally black hair, and an annoying habit of referring to his adult audience as “boys and girls.” Go Tony.

The other day, while my wife was working out with Tony, I looked at the TV and noticed that, of the three people working out behind him, one guy named Eric was clearly lagging behind the other two while doing a fast-paced, plyometrics exercise.
I figured Tony was trying to include some normal people in his video to encourage the viewers, but this seemed counter-productive. Having someone who was slightly off from the rest of the pack was more distracting than it was inspiring.

In the middle of my wife’s workout, I asked, “What’s up with the guy on the left?”

While jumping around the living room on alternating legs, my wife breathlessly replied, “He’s got a prosthetic leg. Tony said something about it at the beginning.”

“Oh,” I said.

So that’s why he wasn’t exactly in sync with everyone else. Nice. [Please pause as Joshua is crowned Jerk of the Week.]

That day I decided that, despite all the Botox injections and whatnot, Tony was, in my book, kind of cool for choosing someone like Eric to be in his video. And I felt like Eric was even cooler for doing a grueling workout out in front of a camera, despite him missing a leg. In fact, after I realized he had a prosthetic leg, my distraction turned to jaw-dropping inspiration. His disability made his determination all the more impressive.

We can all agree that what Eric is doing is admirable. Sure, he’s a little out-of-step, but who cares? The man is jumping, doing lunges, and bouncing around fearlessly on one leg. Nobody’s going to knock him for a flawed execution of the exercise, but when it comes to our own, disabled walks of faith, it’s a different story.

So often we feel like Eric, trying our hardest, but not quite being in sync with all the other imaginary Christians that exist only in our heads. I imagine these spiritual equivalents of Tony Horton, and I think, “I know you’re broken, so why aren’t you limping like me?” Before long, the clouds gather around our minds, and we get into a spiritual funk which is characterized by exaggerated feelings of inadequacy and obsessive self-reflection.

We begin to review our failures and sins and presume that God is similarly obsessed with how messed up we are. Yet we forget the scripture which says that that all of our sin – past, present, and future – died on the cross, and we were given Christ’s righteousness in return (2 Corinthians 5:21). With our sin being dead, no wonder He can afford to be “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8).

We become obsessed with the variety of ways the Holy Spirit “convicts us” of our sin, but we ignore the fact that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” (Romans 8:26). We kick ourselves (and each other) when we’re down on one leg, but we forget that there is a “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on as we hobble toward the heavenly finish line (Hebrews 12:1).

And before long, we are tempted to believe that stumbling through spiritual growth is evidence that we ought to be altogether disqualified from the race. When we get to that point, we have to wage a war to reclaim our minds; and like Jesus, it’s best reclaimed by simply fighting back with the truth of scripture (Matthew 4:4, 4:7, 4:10).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve managed to escape spiritual, self-loathing with this one, paradigm-shifting verse: “For by one offering, He has forever perfected those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14, emphasis added). Translation: spiritually speaking, we’re all stuck with prosthetic legs for now; but because of Christ’s death on the cross, something fundamental happened to us: we got totally new, perfect legs. And even if we can’t see those perfect legs yet, we’re going to, and God already does.

It’s a strange, package deal, indeed – a package which, for the time being, includes an oftentimes embarrassingly clumsy walk with the Lord.

News flash, people: we will never be a churchy version of Tony Horton, and praise God for that. Let’s face it – we’re broken, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend we’re in perfect shape or hate ourselves for failing to flawlessly serve the Lord. It means we’re going to need a new perspective, one that doesn’t come to us naturally.

It’s going to require us to consider that maybe, just maybe, the cheering cloud of witnesses is so jazzed up because they’re seeing Jesus working in us and through us, despite our disabilities (Philippians 2:12b-13). With that in mind, we can cheer for each other with a lot more vigor. And while we’re at it, let’s stop kicking ourselves with our prosthetic leg, wipe our tears away, and get back in the race until the day that we finally trip our way across the long-awaited finish line.

16 Comments
  1. I think every time we "show up" God applauds us. God doesn't expect perfection, we do. Often we need to focus much more on forgiving ourselves. i think God would love that! Great blog, by the way (I am a brand new follower)

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    June 24, 2010
  2. Firefly, thanks for your input and for taking the time to read Spiritual Klutz.

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    June 24, 2010
  3. I think God uses those "disabled" folks for the sole reason to point out how great He is. When you look out into the world and see a bunch of inept, weak, social rejects changing the world in the name of Christ everyone knows that it could only be God making it happen. Left up to ourselves we couldn't do anything. Its just like Gideon's army. If the folks doing the work of Christ were all like Tony, they would get the glory, but God wants it.

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    June 25, 2010
  4. Preach it, Steve. That was so beautifully said, and you really captured the whole point: "If the folks doing the work of Christ were all like Tony, they would get the glory, but God wants it." Thanks so much for posting that comment.

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    June 25, 2010
  5. One part didn't sit right with me theologically: "With our sin being dead and all, no wonder He can afford to be "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love" (Psalm 145:8)." It is the word afford that bothers me. It seems to set up a contractual paradigm where if sin is dead, then God is loving. As if God chooses his disposition towards us or it is contingent on someting; as if, were sin not dead, God would not be loving. His very nature is Love. He can't be anything but loving. The reality (i believe) is a covenant paradigm based in love. It is actually, perhaps, the opposite of what you said: Because God's love and grace are so great, he can afford to put our sin on the cross at such a great cost. Maybe I am over thinking it, but for some reason it struck me.

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    June 25, 2010
  6. Nick, at first I was like, "Picky reader alert!" Then I gave it some thought, and I like your point. It took a second for my to wrap my mind around it, but I think you're on to something.

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    June 25, 2010
  7. I am tempted to say, well the devil is in the details:) I know that being picky on some theological details can lead to a lot of unnecessary argument and divisiveness. My wife usually dismissed my theological debates as "mental masterbation" and she is probably right sometimes. But one area where I am convinced it is good to be picky with theology is when it comes to the character of God. How you see God, what you think he is like (scandelous lover or cosmic bean counter), more than anything else, will shape your relationship with Him. It will have ramifications on how you view yourself and those around you as well. I think it is extremely important.

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    June 25, 2010
  8. And that's why I respect your seemingly hair-splitting observation.

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    June 25, 2010
  9. Joshua, thanks for sharing your Godly spiritual insights which are phenomenal, by the way. I love the way you take a seemingly insignificant 'moment in time' and give such a great spiritual insight making it personal not only to yourself but the entire body of Christ. Tony, who'da thunk. I look forward to reading the next one. Always enjoy reading your mind. Thx, Jennie

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    June 26, 2010
  10. R #

    I have a fabulous friend who has only one arm and she is incredible on the drums and has been teaching herself guitar, which she is also incredible at. She has her arm down to about the elbow and has made a pick out of duct tape that somehow adheres to the end of her elbow so she can strum. By my encouragement, she has recently been playing standing up too! A great songwriter, musician, friend. I am sad though because she is starting to get arthritis on her one hand from overuse. She does not have a good prosthetic arm. We were at an open mic together last night and she sang and played (with me as backup). I can't get over her talents. You know what her song was about? How good God is…

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    June 26, 2010
  11. Jennie – Thank you so much for your encouragement. I've got a lot going on in my head, and getting it out takes a lot of work to get it out of there. I'm glad it is speaking to you in some helpful way.Rachel – thank you so much for sharing your friend's testimony. People with physical disabilities are telling us our own stories, if we have the courage to listen. Tell your friend her story gives me hope for myself and others around me.

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    June 26, 2010
  12. Well done. I'm glad I was told to check out your blog! I don't know what else you have going on in your head, but look forward to hearing more. Bless you, old friend.

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    June 26, 2010
  13. Nikki – thank you, but careful what you wish for. 🙂

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    June 27, 2010
  14. Your writing is fresh, clean, authentic…anything but clumsy (sorry I'm not Tynsdale publishing). Enjoy your take on life as a Christian Dad. We depend upon blogs a lot out here in Kenya.

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    June 27, 2010
  15. To the Friess Family – I just told my wife, "Oh my gosh, you're not going to believe this . . ." and then I read your comment – FROM KENYA. My dinky blog is encouraging someone in KENYA. HOORAY! Thanks for the feedback!

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    June 27, 2010
  16. Joshua, just found your blog from one of your Don Miller blog comments. Good stuff, man.

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    June 28, 2010

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