Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
I read somewhere recently (cannot find it now to reference it) that God doesn’t expect to be heard, He expects obedience. It makes me think of all the advice I have received about the importance of fitness and exercise over the years. I have heard it my entire life — and pretty much ignored it. I am the polar opposite of athletically gifted. If you throw me a ball, if it doesn’t hit me, I will miss it entirely. Anything scored on speed or strength, forget it. I stopped caring long ago that I cannot compete in this area. God has given me other gifts and I am OK with that.
However, I did, in my rush to not care and shun the competitive spirit that only ever ended in humiliation and disappointment, miss an important point. The world’s pretension is to sell me a bill of goods that somehow I am more worthy and valuable, a better person if I am an athlete or at least a fitness buff. They would have me believe that following their “program” and achieving the “perfect body” or the “ideal weight” will somehow validate my existence and make me someone who matters.
I never quite fully bought the hype. I wasn’t good at physical feats and I never won anything that required athletic skill. Such activities only brought pain, frustration and sweat (and I HATE sweat with a passion!) so I just did not engage in that whole cultural dialogue. I did my own thing and made excuses for why I couldn’t do it. No time, no money, other priorities and later physical limitations when my knee troubles prevented me from any kind of high impact activity. Truth is, I just didn’t want to — I was not interested. It required something of me that I did not want to give to impress people whose opinion of my body I did not care about. I was OK with me the way I was and more interested in what was going on inside of me — my character and my intellect. If they weren’t, well–that’s their problem. This is the way God made me — so deal with it. I am going to go on focusing on the important things.
Although my weight ended up far from anyone’s calculation of “ideal,” I never saw myself that way. I ignored the number on the scale — on the rare occasion I ever stepped on one. Told myself it didn’t matter and I didn’t care. I was still the same person inside. Other people seemed way more concerned about it than I was–some were very vocal about it but that just made me more determined to not conform to their shallow expectations of what I should be. I told myself the only thing I should be is what God made me and since He’s OK with what He made, so am I.
They say that people who struggled with their weight when they were young always see themselves that way, even if through discipline and perseverance they have achieved and maintained a healthy weight. I had the opposite problem. Growing up, I was always the petite one. I was the shortest kid with tiny hands and AAA feet. When I was young, my parents couldn’t even find shoes for me at the discount places because they were so narrow. Store-bought pants and dresses almost always had to be shortened unless I could find it in Petites. Every part of me was small and that is how I saw myself — even when the world saw something different happening.
While some might applaud the confidence and self-esteem I had in the face of a culture that worships athletic achievement and body perfection, what I missed — although I heard it my entire life growing up in church as well — was that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I am to honor God with it (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). That does not mean I have to become an Olympic athlete or a professional sports star or even compete and win in state and regional competitions. I do not have to best any world records or measure up to the fitness Nazi next door. God is not asking for any of that. He just wants me to obey.
He really got my attention on this issue about 6 months after my knee surgery and recovery in 2011. My surgery revealed chronic issues in my knee that will never completely resolve short of God granting me a miraculous healing. The doctor said the cartilage may or may not regrow – results vary but the insurance wouldn’t cover a follow up MRI to see what’s going on in there post surgery so it’s anybody’s guess as to what it looks like now. In any case, although the pain factor has dramatically decreased in the last four years, they also predictably found the beginnings of the same arthritis that has plagued the women on my mom’s side of the family for generations so we knew that one was coming. No big surprise. But, it left me with ongoing low grade weakness and reduced flexibility in that knee that will not stand up to sudden movement or high impact activity without telling me how unhappy it is.
So I let that be my final excuse — well, not much I can do now. I can’t risk hurting that knee or falling. Permanent pass from any kind of physical exertion minus the guilt. Whew! I’m home free! Except I wasn’t — God had something else in mind. As I was going over in my mind all the things I couldn’t do anymore and telling no one in particular all the reasons exercise was out of the question now (more on these imaginary, internal dialogues in part 2), He brought me up cold with one of those God moment shoulder taps. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I mean.
GOD: Excuse me, do you still have legs?
me: Huh? WHAT??
GOD: You heard me. Do you still have the legs I gave you?
me: Um, yes of course…oooh [I’m a quick study….I picked up on where He was going with this pretty quickly]
GOD: Do they still work?
me: Well, yes, they actually do.
GOD: So you can walk.
me: Yes, I suppose I can. You’re right, God. No more excuses.
You see, I had been focusing on what I couldn’t do….run, jump. He pointed out very gently in a few words that I needed to look more at what I could do and stop excusing myself because I couldn’t do the things that other people could do. He didn’t expect that of me….I couldn’t run so He expected me to walk and my job was just to obey. It’s not like He zapped me with a sudden enthusiasm for exercise. It’s more like He taught me the discipline to do it whether I felt like it or not because He was the One asking me to do it. As my pastor once said, “LORD, I don’t want to do this. But since you’re the One asking, I will do it–just for You. No one else.”
I still didn’t give a rip what anyone else thought — I wasn’t doing it to gain their approval or love — and I didn’t think that doing it would make God love me more. What it would do is teach me to recognize unhealthy thought habits that had crept in the back doors while I was busy not caring and give me a depth of relationship with my God that I never dreamed possible nor knew was missing, immersed as I was in the “I’ve heard it all before” routine that sets in when one has been “in church” since birth and cannot point to a time where she ever actually stopped believing in God, even during the low points of her faith.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story….
Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 2:12