Why I Do & Don’t Work Out

 

Everyone knows the benefits of exercise. Doctors, health & nutrition experts, personal trainers, magazine articles, advertisers and celebrities have been telling us for years that if we want to be healthy, we have to work it. For me, that fact alone has done very little to persuade me to get up & move, or worse yet…step away from the chocolate. I realize that there are those among you who can honestly say that health is your primary motivator for exercise but when I look around; I can’t help but think that the majority of the folks at the gym are there because they want to look better. I used to be one of them.

I grew up as one of the scrawniest people alive. I was ridiculously skinny as a child & teenager. My first pregnancy, I weighed in at 5 months pregnant a whopping 88 pounds. I’m 5’3″ tall. The only concern I had with weight was that I had not acquired any. At some point, after a few kids and a desk job, I crossed the line into “normal”. All of the sudden, I was just an average, thin person instead of a commercial for starving children. I was in the middle of a disastrous marriage in which every flaw I had was pointed out & magnified. I became terrified that one day I would look in the mirror and it would verify what the voices screaming in my ear everyday were telling me…that I really wasn’t good enough. So I worked out. I became obsessed with every “trouble zone”. I worked out in the morning before starting my day and did crunches & leg work in front of the TV at night. I knew I wasn’t fat, but I wanted to be better, whatever that was.

After my divorce from my first husband, I got worse. I didn’t mean to & I don’t know if I even knew it at the time, but I stopped eating breakfast and lunch. I continued to exercise & added to that the responsibility of walking my ex’s dog, that weighed more than I did, three times a day. I dropped back down to below the 100 pound mark which I’d tried so hard to get up to as a teenager. It was lunacy.

When I started dating my husband, something in me shifted. He spent time at the gym, but his focus was totally different from what mine had ever been. He truly wanted to be healthy & fit for all of the right reasons, while I’d been striving to be good enough. He began to love me to life. I began to realize that I’d been enough all along and that no amount or lack of lunges would change that.

For a time, I stopped exercising altogether. I think I needed that time to come to terms with the fact that my body doesn’t define me. At times it’s been hard. I’ve gained 25 pounds in the last year. I probably needed at least 15 of them. Sure, I got aggravated when my size 0 pants quit fitting. I cried once or twice when I couldn’t fit into anything in my closet. Still, I feel completely satisfied with who I am and that is a victory for me so I refuse to feel defeated by a few extra pounds.

I think sometimes, we need to really grasp a concept before we can move on. I needed those pounds. Now I can work out for the right reasons. I woke up this morning and I didn’t want to crawl out of bed and start working up a sweat but I did it anyway. That for me is the greatest treasure of exercise. It’s in the ability to cause our flesh to submit to what we know it should be doing. Romans 7:14-15 talks about man’s struggle with sin. “14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” I think the same concept applies here. We know that in order to be healthy & fit, we need to exercise, yet we don’t want to, so we don’t. For me, when I put my flesh into subjection & let it know that it doesn’t get a vote here, it is so fulfilling. I feel powerful & strong. I also know if I can make my body submit to exercise, I can make it submit to the Lord in other areas as well. I love that!

I work out for me. I work out for my kids, so that I can have the energy and stamina to play with them & do what I need to do to be a great mom. I work out for my husband so that I can be around for a long time and enjoy the wonderful life we have together. I work out for God (yes that sounds strange) but I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I need to be a good steward and take care of it. I work out so that I have energy. Sure, I want to look good, I want my husband to have a beautiful wife to come home to. I want to feel good about myself, but I’ve learned that I am beautiful even if I have a little cellulite. I am perfectly designed just the way that I am and finally, I’m okay with that.

The Correction Connection

I hate that I hate criticism!  I’ve always struggled with this. The smallest of critiques can make my brain shake. I know in my heart it’s ridiculous. I know the truth is that, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1. My head & heart have run laps around this mountain for years, but still I sit here in my office fuming over accusations that are trivial in proper proportion, but just the fact that my proficiency has been questioned makes me crazy. The fact of the matter is that I was not created to be fully proficient at everything anyway. Again, I know that, but this awareness does little to still the maddening quakes of my pride.

I’m not proud of this fact, in fact I’m questioning whether or not I’ll actually allow this post to exit my computer & enter the world of the living. I hate that I am proud. I hate that I have flaws; I want to be perfect after all. The sad truth is that the very desire of my heart to be perfect may be one of the most imperfect things about me. I remember being in the fifth grade & crying myself to sleep every night for two weeks because I got a “B” in Science on my report card. I kept that report card for years. There, lost in the middle of the monument to my “smartness” was a lonely little “B”. I realized a few months ago when I came across it in a drawer that I must be crazy for keeping it for 25 years but more so that I must be crazy that instead of taking pride in the accomplishments evidenced by all of the “A’s” staring back at me, I was ashamed of the lonely “B”. I kept this for all those years as a tribute to my perfectionism. Now I seek to kill my perfectionism & start a new desire for excellence without condemnation. With that, I threw the report card in the garbage can.

Why not start memorializing things that I’m actually proud of? No one really cares about what I got on my 5th grade report card anyway. To be honest, what people think about me doesn’t really matter. Whatever good I do, I should be doing for the Lord and not for men to praise me.

Matthew 6:3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

Colossians 3:23 “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men”

My greatest accomplishments are the simplest of things, the way I serve the Lord and my family as a wife & a mother, the way I abandon myself in worship and the moments spent in prayer that no one sees. The biggest mystery of all is that the best things are always born from the times I allow myself to decrease. Upon the death of my pride & my selfish nature, I can begin to live and accomplish great things. So why do I let myself get caught up in the criticism of others when I really desire to change from who I am and be changed into the likeness of Christ? 

I can almost see myself, lying down on the altar ready to present myself as a living sacrifice Romans 12 style, then someone questions my Budget calculations and I start kicking and screaming & hurl myself down from the wood and flames ready to fight and defend my math to prove to everyone that I am capable while God sighs, shakes His head and says “I guess we’ll be revisiting this lesson again”. I’m so glad He’s patient with me. It really is laughable that I waste so much time and energy trying to defend myself, when I have the greatest defender whose only requirement is that I do everything unto Him. He will gladly do the rest.

Lord, help me to acknowledge when my pride is trying to rise up & overthrow the village of my soul. Help me to deal with it quickly and stay right where I’m supposed to be, surrendered on the altar of your grace. There is no better way to live. Let me see that correction makes me better. Let me embrace it with an open heart & a willing Spirit. Help me to discern when it is true & I need to change or when it is silly and I need to ignore it, shake it off and move on. God, let me be so focused on YOU that everything else I do and say will be filtered by Your Spirit, then I won’t blow it.