Sweat poured off my body as I strained to finish my last 30 second rep of plank jacks. My muscles were burning from all the previous strength exercises: walking push-ups, static lunges, arm curls, to name a few. I had one minute of abs to complete and my twenty minutes of progress and pain would be over. A two-minute cool-down and a much-needed shower would complete my workout routine…
I delivered my third baby just over 4 months ago. She is an absolute blessing and joy and quickly made her mark on my heart… and left her mark on my body. Now don’t get me wrong: I am not one of those “you should lose your baby weight in 6 weeks,” kind of girls. I understand that it takes 10 months to put on the weight, and it may take as much time or more to get it off. But after months of wearing the same five outfits, I was sick to death of wearing maternity garb. Somewhere along the line, all my “transition” clothes had disappeared into the donation bin. So I was left with a choice: I could spend a small fortune on new clothes or drop enough weight to squeeze into my old ones.
A new wardrobe doesn’t fit into our current budget. And neither does a gym membership. I needed to find something that I could do at home that would work within a limited time frame. With three little kids under the age of five, time is a precious commodity at our house. That’s where famed “Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels came into the picture.
Jillian has a workout DVD called: “30 day shred.” It has 20 minute workouts that are intense and surprisingly effective. It was the perfect solution to my weight loss needs. I got my DVD in the mail, and after indulging in all the yummy calories that the Christmas season had to offer, I decided to get serious in the New Year.
January 1st came and I was super motivated to get back into shape. I put my kids down for naps, popped my DVD into the player, and proceeded to pant and gasp my way through the first 20 minute workout. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was, but was feeling pretty good about myself for completing the entire workout without stopping. I rode the after workout euphoria for a couple of hours… at least until the adrenaline rush wore off and my muscles started to ache.
Those first three days were painful (I could hardly walk up and down my stairs) but strangely motivating. I knew it would get easier and be worth the effort if I pushed through the pain. As I continued my daily afternoon work-outs, my body responded. I saw muscles toning up, I dropped a jean size, and I could walk without wincing.
I was feeling good about myself and enjoying my new daily routine. But as is often the case, life gets in the way. I had a couple of days where I couldn’t fit a workout into my convenient afternoon time slot. It wasn’t a big deal the first day, but as evening was drawing to a close on the second day, I was feeling frustrated. I couldn’t wait to get the kids to bed so I could work out again. I really missed exercising.
I impatiently herded the kids up the stairs to the bathroom. Brush teeth, wash face, get jammies on. Let’s get this over with! The sooner they were in bed, the sooner I could burn some calories!
In my hurry I almost missed the gentle heart whisper: “I wish you desired to spend time with me as much as you desire to work out.”
BAM! God’s gentle reproof packs a powerful punch.
The truth is that I hadn’t been spending much time with God. I had intentionally poured my time and energy into the physical – building up bodily endurance and strength – all the while neglecting any spiritual growth.
It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with God. I just hadn’t made it a priority. Usually by the time the kids were in bed, I was mentally and emotionally fried. The idea of doing anything other than vegging out in front the TV or staring mindlessly at my ipad was exhausting.
And yet, here I was, practically pushing my kids up the stairs and into bed so I could rush back down to “get shredded.” In my excitement of seeing some quick results, and my zeal to meet my 10 lb weight loss goal, had I inadvertently bowed down to the false idol of fitness?
I don’t believe that God’s whisper was a call for me to stop working out. He wasn’t telling me that Jillian Michaels is a bad influence on my life! In fact, I believe God wants us to lead a healthy life style; to exercise, eat healthy, get enough rest. He created our bodies and he wants us to take care of them. After all, they are a temple where the Holy Spirit resides. (1 Corinthians 6:19)
No, God was simply telling me that He missed me. He was reminding me that life is about priorities, and the most important priority should be my relationship with Him. But it’s not because He is a big controlling bully, who demands my allegiance. On the contrary, it’s because He is the ultimate lover. He patiently pursues me and desires the best for me, despite my wandering heart.
He was lovingly sparing me from the inevitable disappointment that would come from putting my hope, self-worth, and self-esteem into a lesser-lover. In the end, the idol of fitness would enslave and then mock me. There would always be 5 more pounds to lose, someone who looked more or less fit to compare myself to, food that I shouldn’t eat, stress over a missed workout…
A quote from the “30 day shred” video comes to mind: Jillian is pointing out the perfectly sculpted abs of one of her workout helpers and says, “You don’t get abs like these for free.“ It’s so true! You can’t have a rock hard body without putting in the time, hard work and dedication to make it happen. It requires strict eating habits, challenging fitness regimens, and some crazy determination.
The same is true with our relationship with God. Heaven may be a free gift for those who choose to put their faith in Jesus (Romans 10:9), but true Intimacy with God doesn’t come for free. It always requires something more from us; like dedication, time, consistency, vulnerability, and trust.
Cindi Wood, Author of the devotional “Victoriously Frazzled” writes: “Doing something good one time does not produce long-lasting spiritual results. But doing it over and over until it becomes a godly habit in our lives gradually brings us closer to Jesus.”
Just like going to the gym once isn’t going to help me meet any significant fitness goal, going to Church or opening my Bible on an occasional basis, isn’t going to produce an in-depth spiritual relationship with God. It may be a good thing, but if I desire a deeply personal relationship with God, I need to pursue him as passionately as He pursues me. That means spending time with him on a regular basis: reading the Bible, talking to him in prayer, worshiping him with my life choices and pocket-book, loving and serving others in a way that would bring him glory.
I will be the first to admit that knowing something and actually doing it are two very different things. Life has a way of messing with even our best laid plans. My “30 day shred” has turned into a “let’s try to fit it in 3 times a week” experience. Truth be told, I’m currently finishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. My devotional life with God… well let’s just say some days it’s more of a 2-second plea for sanity than a mystical spiritual encounter. But I’m trying my best to invite God into the daily chaos of my life, and the amazing thing is that He accepts my invitation. He enters into my busy, messy, crazy life and turns the mundane into something sacred. As amazing as she is, even Jillian Michaels can’t do that!