Fix Your Eyes

If I have talked to you in person at some point in the last 6-8 months or so, you have probably heard me talk about this thing called the Peloton. If you haven’t heard of it, it is an at-home spin bike famous for commercials with absurdly wealthy/fit people taking a spin class in the comfort of their million dollar apartment. Like this.

Well, I wouldn’t peg myself as someone to be sucked in by commercials and marketing and trends, but, well… they got me. In January I started using a free trial of their app to take some classes on the spin bikes at our YMCA. Then when JoBeth and I went to New York we attended a live class in the Peloton studio where I got to feel and see how much nicer the actual Peloton bikes are. Then JoBeth and I started doing some calculating to see if we could swing it. Then we started scouring Facebook marketplace for a good deal on a used one. Finally, a few weeks ago, we found a deal that was too good to pass up, and we are now sheepishly proud owners of our very own Peloton. I’d be happy to tell you more about it sometime, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

So the thing about Peloton is that while the bike is really nice, the value comes from the instructors. The company would call their instructors the best in the world, and they really might be. They are great. They have challenging classes, pick great music, and if you follow their instructions through a class, 20, 30, or 45 minutes later you will be panting for breath, sweaty, and exhausted. At the same time, they can be a little cheesy. They are part instructor, part motivational speaker. And don’t get me wrong, when Alex Toussaint is telling me that “this ain’t daycare” and “stop cheating yourself of greatness,” or telling me to “breathe in that confidence, exhale that doubt,” I can’t help but to pedal faster. But what I also can’t help but do is notice that when it comes down to it, most of the things they say boil down to self-help, pick yourself up by the bootstraps, try harder, be better, you need to save yourself because nobody else will type of advice.

Hearing the advice, encouragement, and motivation from secular folks in a secular organization really doesn’t bother me. I feel pretty good about my capacity to hear and be motivated by the good stuff while ignoring the nonsense. And it feels like a good opportunity to gain insight into the general worldview of modern, Western, high achieving type of people who tend to flock to the Peloton. All of that to say, amidst all of the self-help, try harder motivation, I hear something that rings true and reminds me of Christian truth. John Calvin once said “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” Now please don’t hear me calling these Peloton instructors wicked. Rather, what this quote reminds me of is the importance of looking for, embracing, and affirming truth where we find it. Instead of picking apart everything that people say, I want to be someone who looks for the things that are good and true and can point us to God.

In a recent class with my boy Matt Wilpers, during an especially difficult stretch of the workout, he gave some advice. He said something along the lines of – when struggling through a workout, a run, a bike ride, etc., it is so important to fix your eyes on something. If your eyes and head are constantly moving around, looking all over the place, you will be wasting energy. Instead, you should fix your eyes on something so that you know where you are going, and so that your energy can instead be focused in moving in the direction of your gaze. I was naturally reminded of Hebrews 12:1-3.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I don’t know what Matt Wilpers thinks about God. But I do know that through the gift of common grace, I could be reminded of this beautiful, encouraging, challenging truth in the middle of an early morning workout. In fact, Matt’s encouragement even caused me to think about the ways that I might waste energy and time when I do not have my eyes fixed on Jesus, and how that makes it more difficult to follow him. And more than that, I could be reminded that all truth is God’s truth, and that God chooses to use pictures from this world to illustrate and remind us of His truth.

So, let’s be people with eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. And let’s be people who affirm truth where it can be affirmed, who look for the ways that God is revealing himself in the hearts of men and women in so many different ways. And let’s participate in His work of revealing himself to the world around us.

2 Years of J-O-B-E-T-H

A couple of days ago, JoBeth and I celebrated two years of marriage! We got to enjoy some time together in Boston last week (including seeing the Red Sox obliterate the Yankees at Fenway Park) and we treated ourselves to a way-fancier-than-normal dinner here in Knoxville on Tuesday evening. But, I wanted to have something written to commemorate the occasion. As I was thinking, I was reminded of some specific memories of my Grandpa.

He was an extremely clever guy, intellectual, with an always-on, sometimes over peoples heads sense of humor. And for many special occasions, he would send us a card, email, even a text, written in the form of a riddle, a poem, or an acrostic. One year at Easter for instance, he set out some candy with a card that was meant to communicate – we didn’t have time to hide eggs, but here is some candy anyways. But instead of saying that, he wrote a poem that started something like “Imagine pastel parcels placed purposefully in the yard…” You get the point. It was one of my favorite quirks of his.

So, in honor of Grandpa, and in celebration of two years with JoBeth, here is an acrostic to help summarize these two years with my sweet wife.

J – Jovial. I bet you thought I was going to say joy – but that is too easy. She is every bit of the definition of the word – cheerful and friendly. She makes friends quickly, brings light everywhere she goes, and we can’t go anywhere without her excitedly hugging and being hugged by someone she may have met just once. #JoBethforMayor2020

O – Overwhelming. In every sense of the word. These past two years we have had times of overwhelming joy. At the same time, we have had times of sadness and melancholy. Beyond that we have been overwhelmed by God’s grace in our lives, and for the unique callings he has given us in Knoxville. Sometimes that leaves us feeling a bit overwhelmed, but still grateful.

B – Beautiful. She was when I met her, she was on her wedding day, and she is today. Inside and out.

E– Extraordinary. This might not be that creative of a word, but I mean it very literally. JoBeth is way more than ordinary. One of my favorite parts of living with her, and of getting to stay in this city together, has been getting to see her be affirmed in her extraordinariness, and for more and more people to have the chance to see what I have always seen in her.

T – Transition. We have lived our whole married two years in one apartment, but outside of that there has been a whole lot of change. JoBeth graduated college and got a job at Thrive Lonsdale, where she is now the volunteer coordinator! I finished an internship at Cedar Springs and started a new position there. So the city and apartment have stayed the same, but these past two years have been full of new seasons.

H – Home. One of my favorite parts of marriage is that we get to create a home together. It is worth noting, JoBeth is way better at it than me. When I lived in the apartment by myself I had a twin bed on the floor, and a camp chair in the living room. Now it is a place that is warm, hospitable, and really does feel like home. We are looking forward to moving into Lonsdale in October, where we will get to create a whole new kind of home. But the best part of it all is knowing that home will always be where we are together. (cue the “awww” sound effect).