I think the Hindus sort of got it right when they invented yoga; the whole “relax and meditate” thing really appeals to me. So, I go to yoga.
When you go to yoga, an assemblage of ceiling tiles, an air vent, and an ever-dormant industrial light fixture are all you can see while you just sink into this rubbery mat. This is the best part of yoga—the full five minutes at the end when you get to just lie there and stare at the ceiling. It’s weird how thought provoking those ceiling tiles can be. If you want to know who you really are, take a yoga class and pay attention to what you think about when you’re tempted to count the dimples on the ceiling tiles. Although my imagination can run wild at times, the last time I went to yoga class I was feeling particularly pensive.
During yoga on Tuesday, amidst the reverberation of the gongs and chimes coming from the CD player and the growling of my stomach, my thoughts turned toward the woman next to me. Although I had just met her 20 minutes before, I had learned so much about her: her name, her season of life, and the area in which she lived. Specifically, I learned that she comes to yoga on Tuesdays every week, she is really good at doing handstands, she is very kind, and she is not a believer in Christ. When you meet cool people at yoga who don’t know Jesus, yoga class takes on a whole new meaning. Going to yoga becomes much more than just a workout.
Here in Portland, I have had to learn new methodology of proclaiming the gospel. All of my life, until recently, I have mostly used “hit-and-run” types of sharing the Good News. Gospel tracts, surveys, and “where-would-you-go-tonight-if-you-died” conversations—I have used them all. In high school, I used to go into 7-11 and hide gospel tracts in between the candy bars. My brother fondly called this tactic the “tract-bomb.” I was incredibly confident at 14 that the next person that bought a Reese’s was most likely going to accept Christ; maybe they did. But Jesus has taught me through this trip that sometimes it isn’t about giving the gospel to 70 different people. Often, it’s more like giving the gospel to one person 70 different times; it’s a lot like going to yoga every week just to bump mats with an unbeliever.
Sharing the gospel relationally is hard. In the process of building a relationship with the intention of talking about Jesus, I actually have to care for that person. Unlike a 7-11 tract bomb, I have to know the name of the person I’m praying for. I have to know their likes and dislikes, their stories, and their favorite food. Caring for people takes “work,” and I think that’s why it is so much harder to do than simply sharing the gospel and leaving.
Jesus is the best example of somebody who wasn’t lazy about sharing the gospel. He didn’t just hide a bunch of tracts at the local fish market or say “have a blessed day” so He could bereave Himself of responsibility and then walk away to work on His carpentry. He sat and ate with people and listened to them, He fed people when they were hungry, and He died for them. It’s funny how I can feel as if God is so far away from me, when clearly the stories in the Bible show just how intentional and engaged Jesus was and is. As a pastor I heard recently said, “God didn’t send you a postcard, He sent His Son.” Although my tendency is to be lazy about ministry, Jesus has helped me to get better at not sending “postcards” of the gospel and actually sending myself.
For example, I’ve been swimming in a river, fully clothed, with a family of Saudi Arabians. I’ve bought a homeless man food and then sat there at McDonald’s and talked to him about his life and his family that lives miles away. I’ve come to know the name and the stories of the local druggie outside our building and watched as my team member bought him new shoes and gave out her own personal contact information. I’ve eaten pizza and donuts with many, many people and my team members have even gone into sketchy skate parks just to say hello to a new friend. The point is, these people that we’ve met in Portland, they aren’t “numbers” or “projects” or “work.” They’re our friends.
When I was back home, I enjoyed going to an easy yoga class at college. I enjoyed this partially because I really did enjoy the class and partially because it seemed like a hip thing to do. I obtained a yoga mat and some weird socks with grippy things on the bottom so it would appear that I actually did yoga on the daily. I would occasionally go to the small studio in the workout center, spend the hour twisting myself into those ridiculous positions, and then leave with better posture.
Here’s what I have realized—I have got to do more than go through life with the “I’m hip and I do yoga” attitude. I’ve got to do more than perfectly execute tract bombs in convenient stores. I used to just go through life and subconsciously save ministry for the side, but now I know that I’ve got to go to yoga and 7-11 and everywhere else and build relationships there. How many people could I have impacted at my local yoga studio back home if I would have gone every week and stayed an extra two minutes to converse with the other people there? What if I would have made a new friend and told that friend about Jesus?
At the end of my yoga class last Tuesday, I gave my fellow yoga friend my email address and invited her to ultimate Frisbee night. I haven’t heard from her lately, but I am hoping to see her this week at the same time and continue building that relationship and showing her the love of Christ.
So, now, that’s why I go to yoga. Not simply because I like yoga pants and ceiling tiles, but because I can make friends with people who don’t believe like I do. I think if Jesus were physically here in the 21st century, he’d be willing to come to yoga every Tuesday until I understood the power of the gospel and His love for me. I pray that I’m willing to do the same.