Sunday, August 9, 2009

Not By Might

GLEN: Although Frances and I have kayaked for over four years, this is the first season that I really feel I have learned the proper paddling stroke.

Frances has told me since we began that the muscles of the shoulders and arms are not the primary engines that should drive our boats. The core abdominal muscles are rather the best power source (see Frances’ description in our post, “Where'd Glen Go? Perch Creek 2005“).

For some reason, this never seemed to work for me, making kayaking much harder than it needed to be. Recently, however, the method seemed to click into place, and our kayaking trips have become much easier as my abs are now doing the work for which they are better suited.

Having lifted weights for many years, I had the strength in my shoulders and arms to paddle for the 2 or 3 hours that our trips usually involve. However, I’ve always had the feeling that very long kayaking trips would be difficult, if not impossible. We’re not planning any such journeys at present, but it would be nice to know that I could paddle for extended periods if the time ever comes for a trans-Atlantic voyage or the like. :)

FRANCES: We will definitely need more supplies for that trip.

Learning the proper stroke makes such voyages possible (well, maybe not the trans-Atlantic fantasy!). I feel like I could kayak for any length of time necessary, and it makes me glad for the thousands of situps and legkicks I have endured over the years. Using the right muscles for the job makes all the difference, and as usual, had I listened to Frances years ago, I could have spared myself a lot of unnecessary effort.

As I kayaked this morning, it occurred to me that our walk with the Lord requires “the right muscles,” that is, His muscles. “Not by power, nor by might, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). The life of godliness to which believers are called is far beyond our human capacities, as declared by the Lord Jesus Christ: “Without Me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Certainly we can attempt to navigate the path of righteousness by our own devices, and we may create a facsimile of faith and obedience that appears to suffice. However, we know the truth, and we know that God knows the truth. Only He can lead and enable us to walk as the Lord Jesus walked, and the wonderful truth of the matter is that the Spirit of Christ dwells within us for the holy journey.

Of course, we still apply our human faculties, just as in kayaking, I still use the muscles of my shoulders and arms. I move them and position them properly, but they feel far more like tools than the engine I now realize to be my abdominals. In like manner spiritually, being empowered by the proper source makes the endeavors of godliness far more within reach, and far more enjoyable. We are actively engaged, using our human faculties with great zeal, but doing so from the basis declared by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Colossians: “I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily” (Colossians 1:29). The Spirit of Christ lives in us so that we may live through Him. This is the dynamic of authentic Christian living, and the right set of muscles, as it were, that will carry us through our lifetime, and beyond.

I think, too, about the essential element of the boat. When we kayak, we might forget something...once Glen forgot his PFD and once we didn't get the right ends of the paddles so we couldn't make two complete paddles, but we never, NEVER forget the boats. No matter where the strength of our paddling efforts originates from, we are always resting in those boats. Without them, we wouldn't get more than a few feet from shore. No, actually, without the kayaks, we wouldn't dare get into that water where we know the alligators live. The same is true with our walk with the Lord. We work, but we are always resting in Him as we work and He carries us along the current of His purpose and will and we trust Him and obey Him.

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