Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Is At Your Core

While in athletic training at Penn State University, we would always talk to our athletes about training their "core."  Your core muscles ... abs, hips, obliques, lower and middle back ... this is where power comes from.  A strong core allows you to generate power when you need it and speed when you need it.  A strong core allows you to change direction quickly when you need to.  And, it also helps prevent injury.  Even if you have strong "mirror muscles," and by that I mean the ones we like to flex in the mirror (biceps, triceps, chest, legs) ... you know, the ones you wish were as muscular as mine ... even if you have strong mirror muscles, one won't be as powerful as they could be if their core muscles are weak because the core is where the power comes from.  It doesn't matter what activity you're doing, strong core muscles will just help you perform better.

In life, I think it's the same, especially for men.  If our center is right, if our core is strong, we'll get the most out of life.  But, if all we're doing if focusing our efforts on those "mirror muscles" of life ... the things that may make us look good or even feel good, we will not be functioning at our highest level.

The picture above illustrates this.  I caught some of these thoughts from two guys: John Woodall and David Benner and I thought they were very powerful.  Men tend to run to 5 different areas to escape life or to find life:  

1) The Ball Field.  This represents a man's desire for recreation.  For some it's playing sports.  For others it's watching sports.  For others it's music or art or video games.  It's basically our hobbies and they can easily become a place of escape or a place of identity.

2) Our Brain.  It's our intellect, our ability to reason, our desire to sound like we know what we're talking about.  If I can prove myself through my capacity to reason or my ability to figure things out, a whole lot of respect can come with that. It's nice to feel like the smartest person in the room ... or so I've heard anyway.  Another way we use our brains is by philosophizing so much that we use it as a defense to keep people at bay and at such a distance that we never really let anyone in.

3) The Boardroom.  This is our job.  One of the very first things God did after creating Adam was give him a job.  He said "subdue the earth ... rule over it."  I believe God has placed within our souls a desire for something great or to be a part of something great.  This is not a bad thing.  But, as men, we know that it's really easy to get lost in our careers.  In the Bible I'm told to love my family and do my job.  The problem comes when I get that reversed ... when I love my job but just do my family.  

4) The Bedroom.  This represents our sexual desire.  When God created us, He gave us these desires and it's a beautiful thing!  My wife and I have 4 kids and I thoroughly enjoyed my part in making our each one of them!  But, as men, again we recognize that this God-given desire can become a place of escape or a place to try to find life.  A sexual conquest can make us feel powerful.  Pornography can give us the illusion of intimacy.  So much hurt can come out of this one area when used selfishly.

5) Our Bank Account.  God gives us the ability to make wealth.  So many are really good at this and can take a little and turn it in to a lot.  But, Psalm 62:10 reminds us that "though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them."  It's so easy for us to set our hearts on money because with money comes a sense of power.  

Here is the picture again.  Just a couple of observations.  First, these are the areas of life where men begin to compare and compete with each other.  We never win when we do this.  When we compare ourselves to other men, we'll either see them and think they are better than us (which can lead to a sense of shame and create envy).  Or we'll see them and think we're a whole lot better than them (which leads to a sense of pride and arrogance).  We never win when we compare.

Second, these are the areas of life where men wake up one day and realize how lonely and isolated they feel.  We are told that these things will give us life, but we find ourselves more isolated.  And, the reason we feel this way is because something is missing from this picture.  Can you see it?  What is missing is the "core."  The core is empty.  The core is weak.  One can be strong in all of those other areas and yet still be weak because strength does not come from any of these areas.  Our strength comes from our core and the only One capable of penetrating our core is Jesus.  

Sometimes we think that a rich and satisfying life happens by being strong in one or all of those 5 areas.  But, as people get older, they will often start to realize that all of those things are not what they thought they would be.  And, the same guys that made a ton of money when they were younger would cash it all in to get their family back or their marriage back or their life back.

We have an enemy who wants to steal what is most important to us, kill our closest relationships, and destroy the sense of authentic manhood that God has placed within us as men.  And, he does that by always trying to move one of those 5 areas to the center and moving Jesus to the extremities.  Those 5 areas were never meant to be the source of life and they will never hold up to that weight and pressure.  A full, meaningful, productive, purposeful life starts with Jesus at the core and allowing Him to saturate our very being.  He's the only One capable of carrying that weight and when He does, we'll discover that we are not (and were never meant to be) defined by what we do but rather by who we are ... a man who walks with Jesus ... a very son of the living God.

Those 5 areas were never meant to be the source of life, but they were designed to be expressions of life.  And, just like physically ... when our core is stronger, our extremities become stronger ... I believe it's the same in a spiritual sense.  When we allow Jesus to become the focus of our attention, the source of our life, the one who fills and strengthens our core ... when that happens, all of those other things only become stronger.  They finally become what they were meant to be all along.  

So, what is at your core?  It's a question you need to answer because your core determines the direction of everything else. 

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