“You mean you do all that and you’re not even training for anything?” my girlfriend said to me from the passenger’s seat with a bewildered expression on her face as I described some of my workout regimen. I replied “I just want to be healthy and fit. And if something does happen to come up, like a race, or a long run or ride with a friend, I want to be able to say yes.”
And yet, her question did make me stop and wonder if I was being a bit excessive. I will be the first to admit that I have a tendency to go overboard on some things and become a bit obsessive in certain areas. I believe exercise is one of those areas. So it certainly wasn’t paranoia that made me take a step back and analyze my exercising habits. It is true that I want to stay healthy and fit. I want to be able to at least go out and run a 5k or 10k tomorrow, or join a friend on a long bike ride. And some day, I want to be able to run after my children and pick them up and twirl them around. I’m certainly not an athlete. But it does seem like the older I get, the more effort I have to put into staying fit. Can I get an amen?
The immediate afterthought was to ask myself if I put at least the same effort or more into my spiritual fitness. I’ve come to understand that anything that takes more time and energy from me than focusing on God becomes an idol. When I love something more than I love the Lord, it becomes my god. I don’t want anything to take that type of precedence in my life. And I know that these things don’t happen overnight; it’s a slow fade as they say, it’s a series of choices that build on each other. So, it’s best to nip it in the bud.
All of this thought on how important my physical training is made me reflect on what I am doing for my spiritual training…
1 Timothy 4:7-8 says “…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
So it’s not a bad thing for us to want to be in good shape and stay healthy. In fact, I think we are even better stewards when we keep in mind that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit and we are given the privilege to be good stewards, including over our bodies.
But we are not just physical beings. I like the quote by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” So we need to train ourselves spiritually. What does that look like for you? In this area, one need not compare themselves to others, though it may be informative to ask around for ideas. There are many spiritual practices including reading the Bible daily, a set aside prayer time, a practice of prayer throughout the day, meditating on scripture, fasting, reading other literature, writing or journaling… I could go on and on. Though it remains, there are actions to take and ways to be that can incorporate a spiritual practice. But are we doing them?
Just like my physical exercise seems to need more intentionality to it as I age, I feel the same is true for my spiritual exercise. I have to put a little more thought and planning into my spiritual exercise, switch it up from time to time to flex my muscles, and focus on it being the vehicle to keeping me healthy and fit for God. Jesus said, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matthew 24:44. So be ready my friends, stay fit, and stay healthy. Blessings!
Some statistics show that only around 8% of people that make New Year’s resolutions actually achieve their goal. That seems very discouraging to me and I wonder why that is sometimes. What I’m really pondering are the positive and negative consequences of reaching our goals. Fads versus lifestyle changes… One of my ideals would be to be able to just say no to sugar. But if you know me, you know how much I love ice cream and cookies. And that this goal seems nearly impossible – it would definitely be a fad.
I started to think about how people can often be so glorified for having some awe inspiring testimony, like overcoming cancer, losing a ton of weight, finally kicking the drug habit, or being a hardcore rock star then finding Jesus and becoming a worship leader. What about the guy who’s been a steady Eddy his whole life? Or the mom who has made many a sacrifice for her children and spends an hour a day in prayer? The person who lives upright and has been rock solid always. I don’t hear those stories as much.
This line of thinking makes me ponder on the story of the prodigal son; the lost son of whom Jesus shares about. The son I most often think of is the guy that squanders his inheritance, comes crawling back, and is welcomed by a feast rather than a shaming environment. And then there’s the son who has been there all along and experiences jealously and resentment when his dad starts throwing a big bash for the bratty brother. The dad still loves them both in the midst of the tainted history and temper tantrums. Can you relate to either brother, or maybe both? Whichever end of this spectrum you may be in, or if you’re somewhere in between, take heart and be glad. God loves us, each and everyone. He wants to bless us with parties and long-term, ongoing abundance, even through trials.
I can definitely relate to both brothers. When I came to accept that alcohol and drugs really had created damage in my life, I had to look at not only all the negative consequences that had occurred, but also at all the positive consequences that did NOT occur. It was very revealing to me to think of the things I might have done with my life if I hadn’t been so consumed with the party lifestyle.
So I bring this all the way back around to what’s going on with me today. I was researching natural ways to treat an under-active thyroid, and the results are very similar to natural treatments for many other sicknesses: cut out gluten, take the right vitamins, eliminate processed foods and sugars, eat healthy fat, exercise, practice relaxation techniques, etc. There are very few people I know that really practice ‘clean eating’. It’s a battle in our culture and society. But I think about them and the positive consequences they experience like satisfaction with their bodies, higher energy, less illness. And then I think about all the negative consequences they might NOT be experiencing, like hypothyroidism and having to take hormones – and the list could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at my issue at hand.
So I want to strive to be the steady Eddy this go around. The other brother that’s sticking around and intentionally hanging out with God, my Father (hopefully without too many temper tantrums). And making healthy choices all the way around that include nourishing my spirit through prayer, Bible reading, and meditation,
and nourishing the body through cleaner (I can’t imagine not eating ice cream) eating, relaxation, and exercise. The body, mind, spirit connection is far beyond what we’ll ever completely comprehend and I could write another blog just sharing my thoughts on that. But I’ll leave you with one last thought: may we glorify God through each decision we make today and enjoy the positive consequences and be grateful for not suffering through negative consequences that haven’t happened.
How about you? Do you feel like the older brother? The younger brother? Both?
Are you waiting for something? Someone? Some time? Does it feel like it’s been forever? Then, when one prayer is answered, you’re left waiting on something else? I think it’s fair to say we’re all waiting for something. A job offer, an acceptance letter, a relationship, a marriage, a long-awaited pregnancy, a change, the coming of Christ…
I can honestly say that waiting is one of the most difficult things for me to do. Left to my own devices, I am a total Type A, perfectionist, go-getter. I wanna get it done, and I wanted to get it done like yesterday. But God has such a gentle way of giving me opportunities to grow.
This last summer, after dedicating a year of working with a ministry for little to no income, I set out on my job search. On one hand, the sky was the limit; I could do just about anything and live just about anywhere. But the fact that there were so many options was also overwhelming and intimidating. I started to apply for jobs, jobs I didn’t even really want and got really discouraged when I didn’t get them. I mean, I know it’s a tough market, but don’t these people know who I am? Can’t they see my work history and my excellent education? Isn’t it obvious that I am a super hard worker? And why isn’t God providing for me? Seriously, the ego is definitely something to reckoned with.
I had never had difficulty finding work in the past, even with issues that should have been obvious obstacles. And I would have taken anything, settled for whatever. I wonder how many times I’ve ‘settled’ in the past when God’s ideas were much better… But He is gracious and merciful. I ended up taking a little temp gig doing accounts payable and deposits for a government entity. It was one of the funnest office experiences I’ve ever had and I got to learn a lot and meet some amazing people. Of course my ego told me the job was sooo beneath my qualifications – but it was a perfect distraction for my ‘waiting’ period.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Thankfully, I was blessed with a job that is totally suited for me and my skill set as well as my passions, and offers a lot of growth and learning opportunities to boot. I’m new and I have a huge learning curve, but I know once I settle in, it’s going to be one of those gigs that doesn’t even feel like I’m working.
But the waiting, in the meantime, was so difficult. It’s easy to see how God worked it all out for good now that I’m on the other side. But while I was going through it, it felt like it would never end. I felt physically crushed at one point by the self-imposed pressure of the whole situation. And though I hate to admit it, and it sounds absolutely insane – I absolutely love those times when the only thing I can do is be dependent on and wait on the Lord.
I may have landed the dream job for now, but of course there are new things I’m waiting on – like learning how to be perfect at my job, of course. And still things I’m waiting on, for like forever… Those close to me that I share my heart with know some things that I’ve been waiting on for over 8 years. Oh the heartache of THAT waiting period. I’m so grateful I get to be honest with those closest to me, invite them to support me in prayer and encourage me with love. Most of all, I know that God is with me, He is enough for me, my focus will remain on Him. As He whispers “wait” into my ear, He is holding me in the palm of His hand, and I pray that is where I remain.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
What are you waiting on? Do you believe that God is with you every step of the way? How do faith and works come together for you during these times?