Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spin Class and Catholic Mass

My sweet friend texted me this morning to ask how I was doing. (When my husband goes out of town on business, I whine so pathetically that my best buddies text each morning to make sure I haven't perished from despair in the night.)

In a rare moment of selflessness I asked her how she was doing and her enthusiasm fairly oozed out of my iPhone. Here is the text of her text: "I have spin today and that is where all my doubts of the week get squashed!!! It's where I feel empowered for the week." Wow. That's what I wrote back, too: "Wow." I meant it. And I thought, "Good for her!" All of us need a place where the doubts of our week "get squashed."

Her wording made me think, though - doubt squashing and empowering us to live our daily lives---that's "God stuff." Certainly He accomplishes these things in a multitude of venues: at a spin class; on a 5-mile run; during a killer cup of coffee; while blogging; at the piano; engrossed in a good book; deep in conversation with a friend... the list goes on and on. But the wheels in my head were turning. I found myself comparing spin class with Mass because I instantly wondered if I would ever find myself texting a friend about church using triple exclamation marks.

Spin class - an hour out of the week, (maybe more), focused on the goal of physical and emotional health and keeping off extra pounds, being driven by an almost freakishly energetic instructor whose job it is to keep you pedaling and push you to achieve something difficult, intoxicated with the music that pushes out any thoughts you might have of quitting or slowing or giving up in any way, and then magic moments of exhilaration when your endorphin and dopamine levels have risen and the pain is past and you can do anything! Anything! Covered in sweat and accomplishment, you walk away on wobbly legs and smile as wide as the indoor track at the gym.
Catholic Mass - an hour on Sunday, (maybe more), focused on the goal of getting to heaven and keeping close to Jesus in the meantime, being led by a devoted priest whose job it is to illuminate God's Word and - more than anything - bring you the sacrament of the Eucharist, moved by the music and the prayers that push out any thoughts you might have of quitting or slowing or giving up in any way, and then magic moments of exhilaration when you've received Jesus and the pain of your difficult days isn't so overwhelming and God can do anything! Anything! Covered by the blood of His sacrifice and the humility that comes when you are reminded how greatly He loves us, you walk away on wobbly legs and smile as wide as the rows of chairs and kneelers.
On a "good" Sunday, I am engrossed in the Mass. Maybe I read the readings ahead of time. I shut off the TV on Saturday and gave a little more attention to prayer. My hairstyle turned out okay and my kids didn't annoy the heck out of me as we piled in the van to drive to church. I arrive in my seat and lift my eyes to the crucifix and thank Jesus for His sacrifice and for His tremendous love and for getting me there in one piece. These are the Sundays I want to text a friend about!

Other Sundays, I arrive pouting and angry and flustered. I want to prepare my heart for Jesus, but my husband made me angry at breakfast and my sweater makes me look fat and some lady just gave me a dirty look because my five year-old sneezed on her. Not an experience I want to gush about to a friend. I'd rather hide in the restroom until everyone goes away.

So there's the thing: you show up for church the same way you show up for an exercise class: sometimes great, sometimes cruddy. And you get on the bike or you sit in the pew. Either place, Jesus meets you in every mood and worry and sin and He loves to be close to you --- most of all in the glorious gift of the Eucharist, but certainly also at spin class. You might leave the gym after class in much the same way you leave the church building - energized, recharged, or -- on a bad day, hopefully rare, -- kinda disappointed in yourself. The major difference I can think of is that although you've got the emotional, athletic, elevated-hormone benefits when you leave the gym - all that's left to do is take a shower and go about your day, albeit in a better frame of mind than if you hadn't exercised. But when you leave the church after receiving the Eucharist - you've received the Lord of the universe -- the God who made you and loves you and will carry you through every trial. That's worth three exclamation marks!!!

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