If you know a little bit about boxing or martial arts, then you may be familiar with one of the training exercises called shadowboxing. Shadowboxing is used to develop a fighter’s rhythm and is done by sparring with an imaginary opponent, usually in front of a mirror. Perfecting one’s rhythm by fighting an unseen enemy has helped develop many fine athletes such as Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, who implemented shadowboxing into their regular workout routine on their way to becoming masters in their given sport.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be at a Muhammad or Bruce level of fitness to benefit physically from shadowboxing. Even people like me who prefer power-walking over strenuous exercise can benefit from throwing hand and foot combinations toward an invisible foe in order to develop muscles.
It may be a new concept for you to try physical shadowboxing in order to develop your skills and strengthen your muscles, however, there is another type of shadowboxing that you may already be doing without even realizing it. It’s what I call “Spiritual Shadowboxing” and it doesn’t have nearly the same positive strengthening effects as the other.
Spiritual shadowboxing is when you exert every last drop of mental, emotional and spiritual energy you have fighting against your worst enemy—You. We’ve all be there, we’ve all done it and it’s extremely exhausting to say the least. Here is an example of what one round of spiritual shadowboxing looks like for me personally.
My first name is Monica and it happens to mean adviser. Now I don’t know if my parents knew the meaning prior to naming me but as it turns out, I’ve always seemed to fulfill the meaning of my name as people often come to me for advice. As a Christian, when people seek my advice, I utter a prayer to God for wisdom then try my best to advice from a biblical standpoint. I cannot begin to describe what joy and satisfaction I feel when something I may have said causes others to draw near to God and respond positively to the situation they were seeking advice for.
But let’s get real! I’m not spiritually in-tuned all the time. There have definitely been occasions when I’ve spoken too soon, forgot all about seeking God’s wisdom first and instead used my own. In place of listening with a pure heart, I’ve listened with a biased attitude which has often caused me to blurt out my own opinion, forgetting all about the reason the person came to me to begin with. Having this happen once in a very blue moon wouldn’t be too bad but for some reason when it does happen it seems to happen in a flurry and that’s when I know I’ve blown it big time.
It’s extremely important to me to approach things in a way that I believe is aligned with God’s word, and even more so when it involves advising others. Having some sort of positive spiritual impact on others is not only a huge responsibility to me but it’s what I live for. So when I forget all about doing things God’s way and possibly reflected that error to others, even in advice giving, my spiritual shadowboxing bell rings and the inner-fight is on.
I’m not talking a small stumble, that happens and I can deal with it but when I feel like I’ve really blown it, I punch, jab, strike, kick and move rapidly back and forth in a spiritual frenzy. I exert all energy beating myself up in my own thoughts because of what I feel I should or shouldn’t have done. Unlike physical shadowboxing which is geared to strengthen, by the time I’ve gone a few rounds with myself in spiritual shadowboxing, I’m down right pooped out. The ironic part is that usually others aren’t even aware that I messed up at all. It’s only because I know my true heart feelings and deepest motivations better than anyone, that the struggle is within me.
Right about now, I picture someone reading this article shaking their head in agreement saying, “Yes, I can relate. The struggle is within me too.”
Spiritually shadowboxing ourselves, beating ourselves up over everything we feel doesn’t measure up to our own standards is never what God intended. Yes we are called to align our lives to God’s will and yes we should make changes when we stumble or fall flat on our face but Romans 8:1 makes it very clear about how to handle the inner struggle and spiritual shadowboxing many of us deal with. “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” In essence, this scripture is telling us to quit sparring with ourselves over the areas we fall short on.
You and I will blow it and we’ll do it more than once. But the key is: Go to God, seek His forgiveness, and then ask for His help so that next time maybe you won’t blow it quite as bad. It’s really a simple solution. We mess up, we seek forgiveness, we ask for help, and then we move on. Nowhere in that equation are we told to waste our energy fighting ourselves because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus.
So maybe it’s time to lay down our gloves and come to God with all our spiritual shadowboxing issues, He will not condemn us. Instead He will forgive us, set our rhythm right and strengthen us for the next round.