Sunday, September 29, 2013

To What End?

A few days ago I read an article about some of the lesser known dangers of CrossFit. In case you are not familiar with it, CrossFit is a physical training program that is something along the lines of a boot camp for those who are really serious about fitness. Well, apparently there are people who take the training a bit too far (exactly where the blame falls is up for debate), which can result in rhabdomyolysis, a condition where your muscle breaks down, flooding your blood with muscle cells that then jam up your kidneys, leading to kidney failure and sometimes even death. All because you pushed yourself too hard.

I could so see how that could happen. I see it all the time. A little is good. More is better. Push yourself to the limit. Show that you have what it takes. I would imagine it being not all that different from any extreme sport or high risk activity. Young people, in particular, consider themselves invincible and limits are made to be pushed. Weakness is a sin. The body is to be trained and molded and beat into submission. The sky is the limit.

But to what end?

I know that being in shape is important. But fitness, like any good thing, can become a mini-god, an idol. And idols are evil taskmasters. They require total allegiance and cause you to lose sight of the goal. So, I have discovered that the little phrase, "To what end?" can give me an entire shift in perspective.

Whenever I feel enormous amounts of guilt because I see friends spending hours a day in physical training and running marathons and biking across the state and such and I feel like I am a total wimp for not joining in, I have to ask myself, "To what end?" Would doing these things enable me to better love God and my neighbor? No.

Whenever I am frustrated about my appearance and long to be young and beautiful, I have to stop and ask myself, "To what end?" Would being attractive in any way change my purpose in this life? No.

Whenever I start letting the lust of my eyes get the best of me and I begin drooling over photos of charming old houses or gleaming hardwood floors, I have to stop and ask, "To what end?" Would my quality of life really be enhanced by having such temporary goodies. Probably not.

Whenever I look at the list of real estate agents in the region and see that I am way down the list in sales production for the year and I feel bad that I don't do more business and it must mean that I suck at what I do, I have to ask myself, "To what end?" It is just a number.

And whenever somebody else writes a wonderful blog post that gets shared all over Facebook and my latest post got only 10 "likes" and I feel a mix of discouragement and envy because I want to write good things, too, I have to ask myself, "To what end?" Does that change one iota my value in God's sight? Absolutely not.

If indeed "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism), then the other things in life must take a back seat and a smaller portion of my time and attention. It isn't that fitness or beauty or success is wrong in and of itself, it is only wrong when it takes up most of your life instead of just a small piece of it.

So the next time you get wrapped around the axle about a certain pursuit, go ahead and try it. Ask yourself, "To what end?" The change in perspective does a body good.

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