When a runner doesn’t feel like going for a run the advice is that we head out the door anyways and tell ourselves in 10 minutes if we still don’t want to run we can stop. This has helped me more than once—as I prepare to run with Team World Vision at the Victoria Goodlife marathon—to roll away from the beautiful woman I call my wife and crawl out of our warm bed and quietly, in the semi-dark, put on my running gear. Never once have I stopped at the 10-minute mark. The trick works because while to many people running takes discipline and is a sort of discipline itself, to me it is a joy. I know very few athletes who stay fit without finding a sport they enjoy. It doesn’t matter too much the sport so long as a person is passionate enough about it they will remain motivated. That’s why so many people like and practice so many sports, they find one that suits them and they pursue it. The health component is mostly a helpful benefit rather than the purpose.
In the life of faith we practice what we call Spiritual Disciplines, fasting and feasting, reading the bible, praying, etc. and to many people these take serious commitment. Sometimes when a person sets aside time for the sort of practice they believe all Christians do or that they should do they find themselves unmotivated and don’t bother. Or they convince themselves into doing them and quickly realize they are getting nothing out of it and stop (say, at the 10-minute mark). Many folks have on again off again relationships with daily prayer or devotions or reading. They want to be “spiritually fit” but they haven’t found a practice that gives them life or joy.
There are at least two keys that I know of regarding spiritual fitness:
First, nothing we do will ever make us more saved. Once we are saved that is that. We are born anew, our minds are renewed, we are dead to our old selves. Regular spiritual discipline practitioners often rest in this and know that what they are doing isn’t meant to please God, or that isn’t the priority. Pleasing God, and “spiritual fitness” as helpful benefits, sideline spin-offs, of the profoundly healthy practice they have discovered they like. They know that while God wants to connect with them and finds holiness pleasing, their righteousness is the Christ in them, not their ability to buckle down and pray.
Second, they have found a practice (it may be lifelong or just for a season) that works for them. I am a reader and a writer and a runner. It’s not surprising then that I like daily reading, go through periods of daily journaling, and love to pray while running, walking, or swimming. These practices go hand in hand with activities that otherwise give me joy.
Can’t sit still, then maybe forcing yourself to meditate isn’t the right plan. Not a reader? Then set your goals for time in God’s word appropriately (I would never advocate no bible reading). Perhaps an audio bible would help? Not a writer? Maybe sing a song or say a prayer…the point is to find ways to practice spirituality that jive with our lives and passions. If we do, the 10-minute rule will work every time because we will be doing something we are passionate about for its own sake rather than for some expected benefit.