It’s 105 degrees in the room and I find my self inhaling and exhaling in the middle of a yoga class. Sweat is dripping out of pores that I didn’t know I had and I am wondering if it’s too late to sneak out and get my money back. So let me rephrase: I put myself into that hot room. I have a love/hate relationship with a self-inflicted rough road. I had friends in high school who would look at me crazy as I would pray for God to “wreck me.” And still, I grimace when I pray these words. I know I need a wrecking. I know I need a good sweat. A chance to be uncomfortable, a chance to sweat out the bad and be replenished with the good.
As I’m in there sweating, Im staring in the mirror and all I can think about is the fact that I chose to wear gray pants to a hot yoga class. Groaning inwardly, I just picture the inevitable sweat marks that will appear on my pants and I grimace. Maybe, if I have any luck at all, I will sweat so much that my whole pants will turn black and thus, no awkward dark areas. But the chances of that are about as high as my hopes for my first day of grad school: I had stepped into my first class at seminary and after one look of my large sunglasses, pink laptop case, and over-sized earrings my professor kindly asked me if I was lost. I think he thought I still was until I turned in my first paper. And as I’m sitting worrying about my sweat lines, the voice of the teacher interrupts me: ”try to find some ease during your effort.” And I begin to deeply inhale and deeply exhale and I close my eyes so that I can’t see my pants in the mirror anymore.
I started a book study with a group of women today. We are reading through the book “7″ by Jen Hatmaker. She’s a woman who has identified 7 areas of excess in her life and purged, spending one month on each area. Trying to create space for God to move, and get rid of distractions so that she could hear the voice and calling of her Creator a bit more clearly. We will be going through this book together and doing a modified version of it, hoping to purge and create some space.
Inhale. Exhale. Flat back, engage those hamstrings. I’ve been to yoga enough times that these instructions can play in the very back corner of my mind reserved only to instruct my body; much like tying my shoes or eating cereal. Thoughts that are there just to manage movement. What’s on the for front of my mind, of all things, is the seven woes that Jesus lays out in a not-so-cherry manner in the book of Matthew (or Luke. You choose). The back corner of my mind is directing my body and as I inhale and exhale deeply, I just keep thinking about those stones.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I havegathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate…Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 23:37-38…24:1-2)
An entire city, an entire religious system of the Pharisees that kills the prophets that are sent to them. Stoning was used to condemn and to kill others. Stones also happen to be the state of the Pharisee’s hearts: hard. unwilling to repent. And it’s also the same material they use to build their temple. Jesus, in addition to my Savior, is my literary hero. His play on words in a situation like this is so masterful, that the wordsmith in me reads passages like this and shouts “Bravo!” Which, I am sure, He gets amusement from. I digress.
Jesus spends the first part of Matthew 23 condemning the Pharisees for what hypocrites they are. He ends this admonishment with the passage above: talking about stones. The act of stoning. The stones that built the temple. And what they represent: nothing but a beautiful, but desolate temple. The Pharisees have spent their life in a religious system that had everything to do with legalism and nothing to do with Christ. Of course, Christ has just entered the scene, but still, their hard hearts are not willing to put these stones down and repent. Instead, they insist on holding these laws…these stones…these things that they insist are most important and aim them at anyone who disagrees. As laid out in the many verses prior, they are stoning those around them by their judgements and insistence upon following their way of life. And the worst part is is that these stones aren’t necessarily in their hands, but represented in their hard, hard hearts. They have no idea that they are carrying these heavy burdens around, and that an easy yoke is right in front of them.
I’m now dripping sweat and I’ve forgotten about my pants. It’s a balancing class which seems quite humorous to me as I begin thinking about the book 7 and the areas of excess, the places I need to purge and find more balance. Mrs. Hatmaker gave up physical things because she needed to declutter and make space. And while I am on board, I fear that the “things” I will give up will have to be because of the stones that I carry. As I am controting my body in different poses and shapes, I have to let go of some muscles and engage others. I have to concentrate on one point in front of me or I will tumble over. I have to be firmly grounded in my foot that is holding up my body, and light as a feather in every other muscle. I can’t let any part of my body hang with extra weight or it will throw off my balance completely. And it’s in that moment I realize why our journey through 7 will be so very hard for me: I have stones that I throw. I have stones that weigh me down. I have places of my heart that are as hard as stone. And, like the Pharisees, I have built my own place of worship out of these. same. stones.
You see, Jesus called the temple desolate. It was beautiful, make no mistake, but it was empty. And in His genius, literary, oh-my-goodness-God-is-the-best-writer-EVER way, this very passage ends with Jesus promising not one stone will be left standing. Yes, historically, not one stone of the temple will be left standing. But more importantly, not one stone of the Pharisee’s legalism, their own religion they designed and built places of worship, their hard hearts, will be left standing. They will crumble. They will fall. In the face of the glory and supremecy of Christ, their “religion” can not stand.
And as I tumble out of my balancing pose, I realize, that this will be true for me, too. That all my stones, the religion I’ve built that has everything to do with everything else and nothing to do with Christ in many areas will come crumbling down. That not one of those stones will be left, and the desolate temple that I walk in so many times a day, when faced with the magnificent splendor of Christ, can not…and will not stand .