Getting in shape

 “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” I think the human condition is that we fall short on the “all”. And that raises the question “do we love someone or want something more than we love God?” Tough question. But think how much time, energy and emotion we spend on other things. Seems to me that time, energy, and emotion poured into a relationship will give you some inkling of the degree to which you are in love. Consider what part of your day and week you give over to God in terms of time, energy and emotion.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson studies how we spend our time and the result in terms of “expertise.” While you may not know his name, you may well have heard of his “10,000-Hour Rule.” Expertise requires a tremendous dedication of time, energy, and emotion to being the best that you can be. Did you know that the Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time? Hard to imagine it was not an essential part of them becoming the Beatles. Michael Phelps had spent 10,000 hours in the pool training by the time he was 15 and made the US Team for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

In my lifetime I have swum way more than 10,000 hours. I’ve no Olympic medals to show for it but would I say that I am an expert. I would but it did not happen overnight. My first swim meet was in Eustis, FL. I was disqualified in my first event. Rough start. Don’t remember much about that race. Lots of flapping and flailing and getting nowhere fast. Inelegant to say the least. But some 50+ years later, swimming has become ingrained, natural, fluid, and is still part of my life. These days there is an effortlessness to it all – doesn’t mean energy and concentration are not required – but the concentration is carried in the deep muscle memory. I don’t spend the same amount of time, but I spend time. In a way, it is who I am. I am not longer someone who swims, I am a swimmer.

All those years, and all those hours spent – were they a form of idolatry? I am pretty sure we don’t think of our hobbies as idolatry – but then again compare the time, energy, and emotion spent when compared to our relationship with God.

And what has my idol made me? I am a swimmer. And when I announce that at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will probably smile and say, “That’s nice! Good for you”. Then will come the awkward silence. St Peter will no doubt ask: “Ahem…. Are you an expert lover of God and neighbor as yourself?”  Hmmm…am I prepared to answer that? Am I the best that I can be when it comes to being in love with God? Have I put in the 10,000 hours?

I wish I could love as fluidly and effortlessly as I swim. I wonder if I love in a way that is like the youthful me flapping, flailing away – and getting nowhere? Maybe I should have put in the hours of practice to know the nuance and elegance of love of God. Maybe then love would be increasingly effortless and fluid. The actions and words of love would be “deep memory” because it is no longer what I do, but who I am. Maybe then my love of God would be a flame that poured itself into love of neighbor.

Are we becoming love itself – people who have practices love for way more than 10,000 hours and now love naturally, elegantly, effortlessly? People who love because it is who they are. It is certainly who we are called to be.

There are lots of demands on your time. So, this week, next week and the week beyond…what is your schedule for practicing love?


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