by Susan Reedy
In the last few months I have made an amazing discovery. I have abdominal muscles. Well, I don't have a six-pack or anything remotely resembling outright definition, but I know I have muscles in there, because I have begun regularly scheduled torture sessions that leave my entire abdominal wall screaming for mercy. The legally-sanctioned torturer? An incredibly effective exercise called Pilates.
Pilates focuses on core strengthening and balance by targeting the trunk of the body -- sometimes referred to as the "powerhouse." The powerhouse includes the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks and lower back which function as a "girdle of strength" for the spine. A strong powerhouse protects the spine, reducing muscular-skeletal pain and preventing further injury. Practicing Pilates results in more control, better balance and less pain in the extremities.
I like the thought of more control, better balance and less pain in my body, but I also want it for my soul. I want God to be the center of my existence, my sole source of injury prevention, balance and strength -- my "powerhouse," so to speak. But too often the gripping vice of pride makes me believe that I can hold my extremities in check all by myself, that I know enough to be the core strength of my life.
The struggle over control of our center goes back to the very beginning. In the very center of the very first garden were two trees. One tree promised life forever under the jurisdiction of the Holy One. The other claimed to give God-like knowledge of good and evil. The choice came down to who was going to be the powerhouse -- God or man.
Unfortunately, we decided that it wasn't enough to be on a need-to-know basis, leaving God in charge of what was good and evil. We wanted to "become just like God, knowing everything" (Genesis 3:5, The Message).
I still repeat that mistake. I fail to turn back to the center of life for answers because my pride fools me into believing that I'm the guardian of good and evil. What makes it even worse is that I sometimes offer up my own self-proclaimed knowledge as the true knowledge of God.
What about you? Maybe you believe that those who are in poverty just haven't worked hard enough, or maybe you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was the unjust oppression of the poor that caused God's wrath to be poured out in such fashion as the bombing of the World Trade Towers.
Whatever it is, when we claim to have specific knowledge about what God is doing in the world, we forsake the whole of God for the piece of him that most matches the center of ourselves. But the center of ourselves is not the center of God. "'My thoughts are completely different from yours,' says the Lord, 'And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine'" (Isaiah 55:8, NLT).
Relinquishing control of my powerhouse gives God the rightful place as owner of all knowledge and frees me from needing answers to all the tough questions. Of course, I will always struggle with the tough ones, but I can leave the decisions up to God. I can pray for God's wisdom to fill the leaders of my church as well as the leaders of my country. I can pray for God's direct guidance in the activities of my small group, as well as the activities of the National Security Council. I don't have to worry about having all the right answers, because I trust in my core strength.
Although the world we live in is a disastrous melting pot of conflicting powerhouses, it is sufficient for me to focus on strengthening my core belief in Christ as my Savior. I can eject myself from my seat at the center of knowledge of good and evil, and simply point back to the central figure in the drama, Jesus. He alone is our "girdle of strength," our powerhouse, our center. My growing place is to let go of my desire to know it all and center myself through knowing him.
-- Susan Reedy