My grandfather was a baseball player. I learned this as a young boy when he snagged a blazing line drive hit into the stands at an Oneonta Yankees game—and in the pastures of his farm when aunts, uncles, and cousins would ride out in a wagon together to play softball as part of the annual family reunion.
My grandfather could hit the ball beyond the farthest relative and down the next hill. As family legend has it, he could have left the town team he played for in the 1930s for the minor leagues, if not the big leagues. Instead, he accepted the inheritance of his father and grandfather, and labored in familial pastures and the milking parlor.
I have not lived with the clarity of my grandfather. I sought other forms of physical exertion. With Olympic aspirations, I ran several times a day, more than a hundred miles a week. On top of this, there were sessions in the weight room. The regimen was sustained by ibuprofen, ice baths, and liquid calories—food as nothing more than fuel. It also required an immense output of spiritual energy. To narrow one’s life to a single athletic endeavor is to engage in a form of worship, though not of Abraham’s God.
I do not say this to disparage the work of bodies. Christianity is at its core about bodies. Discipleship is the remaking of our bodies together with our souls, which is why the early church thought so much about what...