It’s funny how priorities change, but sometimes the principles involved remain the same. I will give you an example of an instance in my life.
I grew up being picked on for being skinny. Well, there was that summer around the age of twelve, when I got picked on for being fat. Then another growth spurt, which stretched it all out and I was skinny again. Regardless, I was always the last one picked for sports. That is devastating to kids! It left me with a very low self image. It seemed like a no win situation, which carried over into adulthood. I don’t have to worry about not being selected for sports anymore. But, the feeling of inferiority remained.
To a degree my interest in performing magic compensated. Looks and size didn’t matter. But, the feeling of whatever I longed for, was only present on stage. Which brings up another question; what is it that we really long for? Prestige? Acceptance? Control? A feeling of worth? We’ll get back to that later.
I had tried weight training when I was younger. But, my metabolism was such that I gained strength with out the much hoped for size increase. Reeves, Oliva, Ferrigno, Arnold! Names which invoke the immediate image of muscle mass. Pure confidence seemed to radiate from their photos. To a skinny kid, looking like that was the stuff of dreams. As I got older, I realized that I could now gain mass and started to; but not the right kind! So, I joined a gym.
It was there that I actually found and felt acceptance. I could work out with beginners as well as guys getting ready for competition. Whether you could bench fifty pounds or five hundred, you fit in. Some did more sets. Others did more reps. Didn’t matter, as long as you were there. Friendships? Let’s say; “camaraderie” is a better term. Outside of the gym, we might talk briefly, if we ran into each other. But, in most cases, our common interest was working out. Over the years, I came to realize what our real commonality was; low self esteem. When it came down to it, we were all there because we were dissatisfied with our looks; our self image.
A couple of years ago, the gym closed. Most of the guys went out and found new places to work out. Personally, I felt abandoned. I had no desire to “break in” at a new place. Besides, I have plenty of weights at home. Why not just continue to work out there? Let’s just say that plan started out strong and although I still enjoy working out, it is on a far less frequent basis. I used to work out for one to two hours a day, five to seven days a week. Now, fifteen minutes seems like too much of a commitment, every two or three days! Why the change? Priorities.
I am committed to spending quiet time with God, every morning. Every morning. That means time in prayer, reading His Word and studying it (which is decidedly different than just reading, I’ve found). I enjoy playing my dulcimer, which is in its own way, prayer, praise, worship. Preparation for teaching Bible study lessons and for the ministries which I’ve become involved in, take up a chunk of time, as well. I like to take care of these responsibilities in the morning, before going to work. That frees up the evenings for time with Carol, my wife and best friend. Mornings and evenings. Somehow, I used to fit that workout schedule into one of those time frames, as well. My workouts now suffer, due to increased priorities in other areas. That means that I have to admit that those areas suffered, when the gym was number one. Did I realize it at the time? No. But, looking back at the times when my “prayer time” was confined to my time in the tanning booth, I have to admit that I was wrong. I had put other gods before Him and too often my own selfishness over the needs of Carol and home.
How is it that I had gone astray? Just like working out in my basement alone, I had tried to take on my spiritual commitment alone. That’s not the way God made us. We are supposed to be in fellowship. That’s where we learn and where God trains us. When we try it on our own, our commitment tapers off far too easily. That’s where accountability comes in.
I never enjoyed working out with anyone as much as with my buddy Tim. We pushed each other beyond pain, beyond what we thought we could accomplish. We sometimes still do. You see, Tim and I are accountable to one another, not physically any more; but as Brothers in Christ. If we see the other slipping, sloughing off, or just going through the motions of our commitment to worship, we say so and in no uncertain terms. As a Christian, there are still sets and reps. This morning I read a chapter in Isaiah three times! I didn’t plan it that way. My mind wasn’t focussed enough to fight off the weariness of distractions. So, I had to reread, with the knowledge that through the reps, God would impart wisdom. He always does. God likes commitment. He expects it. Sometimes I almost feel Him there saying, “Come on. One more. You can do it!” What’s the reward? In weight training, it’s usually the “pump”, when your muscles are so full of blood that they feel like bursting. Spiritually, it’s the same. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call someone close to me and burst out with the fullness of a nugget which God has helped me find in His Word.
I had a dream in which my former gym owner had opened a new gym. It was filled with all new equipment, but it was so full that I couldn’t see any way to use it. I told him, “I just can’t get into it.” He showed me how cut his abs were. I replied “That’s nice. But, I’m worried about your heart.” He told me that the cardio was good for his heart. But, I replied that “It’s not your physical heart that I’m concerned with, it’s your spiritual heart.” It was at that point that I awoke. Not all of this was just a dream. His faith always lay only in himself and his own accomplishments. And although I am concerned with his lack of faith in God, I feel that God was also speaking to me. Sometimes my life has been so full of new stuff that I’m overwhelmed to the point of uselessness. God wants us to put all things into His hands and He will enable us with that which is best for us. Sometimes that means getting back to just the basics. Ask anyone who is truly knowledgeable about training; the basics are the best! Also, I am glad that God spoke to me regarding true heart health. It has to be made strong spiritually above all else. On it’s own, the heart is a muscle pumping blood through it. It is never satisfied with what is in it, so it pushes it out and draws in new blood constantly. That is not the case spiritually. When God fills your heart, it is full to the point of bursting, overflowing to fill your entire being with His goodness. Then others will see you; not skinny, fat, cut, or massive; they will see you pumped up with the love of God. They will know the condition of your heart, as you run life’s race. Isaiah tells us; “They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”
I still enjoy the feeling of a good exercise session and probably always will. But, the need just isn’t there. I still get a twinge of insecurity when I see a bit of spare tire in the mirror. But, knowing that God imparts strength and beauty beyond the physical, has allowed me to find a peace that could only come from making Him my life’s priority.