In-Sight: Let Them See You Sweat

If you follow Oboedire, you know that one of my maxims (that doesn’t hold true in every imaginable case) is that the spiritual life is often the direct opposite of a culturally-espoused value, slogan, or conviction.

In relation to our fallen-world’s idolization of “image,” I was thinking about the slogan, “Never let them see you sweat.”

In its place I would like to offer this phrase for authentic spiritual formation:  “Let them see you sweat.”  Here are several reasons why…

(1) There is no such thing as a quick or easy spiritual life.  There’s no such thing as “effortless” spirituality.  We must respond to grace to fully experience and benefit from it.  Without succumbing to work’s righteousness, we can surely say that cultivating a genuine spirituality “takes work.”  Spiritual formation is a never-ending, lifelong process.

(2) True spirituality can exist in the presence of contradictions.  The spiritual life does not wait until everything has been “worked out,” every problem “solved” and all flaws “eliminated.”  Part of the sweat of true spirituality is being willing to risk living for God in the midst of messiness and misunderstanding.

(3) Authentic spirituality includes the literal sweat of servanthood.  We not only pray for God to provide a hammer and nails, but we actually hammer the nails when God provides them.  Spiritual formation includes the sweat of activity—what Eugene Peterson and others are calling “lived theology.”

So….let them see you sweat.  It’s the only way to show the world that the spiritual life is real and related to the kind of life God calls us to live each day.  Without it, spirituality turns counterfeit—nothing more than an “appearance” more intent on ego-maintenance than Kingdom living.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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