Maybe working out more--getting toned and stronger, fitter and faster--is on your priority list. Or if you're like me (an endurance athlete), signing up for a new race distance (50km trail race in Hong Kong in March!) has piqued your interest. Whatever the case, the physical side of life is one good thing that may be on your list of things to be more mindful of. There are a few goals for 2014 that I have in mind. And while improving my Chinese is one major goal for this new year, for the moment I'm currently in the middle of a winter vacation that not only is affording me restful nights, beautiful sunny weather and 75º days, and delicious food, but also a chance to visit friends that I've known for several years since my year of teaching English in SW China in 2009/'10.
As I noted above, this race that 4 of my friends and I have signed up is going to require me to get in a lot better shape before I'm ready to toe the line with the best trail runners in China, Hong Kong and SE Asia who have showed up in past editions. Accordingly, this addition of free time to my schedule has given me a chance to increase my mileage back to a nominal marathon training load of 60-70 miles/week. I only have a total of about 3 months from the day I decided to register for this ultra-marathon til race day. And an ankle sprain earlier this winter forced me to take about a month off, so I was nearly starting over from scratch. Thus, I've tried doing my best to get in some longer runs, sleep 9 hours, and eat well to recover as fast as I can. However, sometime in the recent past I noticed the base of my left calf was a bit sore while running.
With longer runs scheduled and more mountain trails to be tackled, three days ago I started to work on my calf with a runner's rolling stick, my fingers and a water bottle improving as a foam roller. By the end of the day, my calf was so angry at me that it hurt to walk around the house and even minimal stretching movements were hampered because it was so tight. If I hadn't started massaging my calf muscle the other day, I don't think I would've realized how in need of attention it was. But, the more I poked and prodded and the more I massaged it, I realized that something was going on inside my leg and actually needed more attention than I was originally going to offer it (consumed some ice cream and took a rest day rest to pamper it!).
Yesterday I ran 5 miles then today 8 miles, and while it's feeling significantly better, it is still not 100%. A bit more massaging and gentle stretching will get it back to feeling like the rest of my body, which is, thankfully just 'present' and functioning well. No pain being elicited upon palpation is good in my book, but I'm thankful for the times that my body lets me know that something is awry or out of balance so I can address the problem and get that muscle or bone what it needs so it can once again function well with full strength and vigor.
Now, for those who belong to Christ, we, too, are part of a Body, which is multifaceted, amazing, present and functioning well most of the time. But, because we are given one unto another to help each other be encouraged, lifted up, honored and served, we have a responsibility. That responsibility is outlined in a few verses in 1 Cor. 12: 21-26:
" The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."
Given the technological age that we're living in, self-absorption is a temptation that is more prevalent now in one form or another because hiding behind a computer screen or phone makes it seem like we're communicating with social network friends (who may or may not physically cross our paths in our day-day routine) when in reality, we're spending less time in face-face interactions. With that being said, it's my hope that as this new year continues on, you take the opportunities that arise each day to sincerely inquire about how the Body is doing. If you haven't lately asked a close friend or family member (or the stranger sitting next to you in church) how they're doing and given them the time of day to respond honestly and freely, then it's quite hard to know the truth of their situation, because I can bet you they're not posting their struggles and pain too freely on Facebook or Twitter.
The truth is that we don't know how people--our loved ones, our brothers and sisters in the faith--actually are until we take time out of our schedule and routine to inquire about a different part of the Body. When we genuinely show them the love of Christ in any number of ways, (perhaps offer to massage their shoulders, if appropriate, and that'll loosen them up a bit to start talking....or take them out to dinner....or invite them over for dinner....or ask if you can pray for them before or after service...or shovel their sidewalk or car off and take their invite for some coffee to get some face-face time with them before your day gets busy) he or she may share with you struggles and pains that they've held in for too long and you can, by our Lord's grace and power, be a part of the healing process to see restoration, hope, freedom and joy be the lot of one who recently has only known despair, sorrow and mourning.
In the end, as my calf needed attention and it let the head know so so that the my fingers could give it a helping hand (pun intended) so look to the Head--Christ Himself--to lead and guide you into deeper relationships with those who need to really know and experience the healing touch of the One who gives freely to those who ask Him. May this new year be one marked with a more intimate relationship with the both the Head and the Body.