>I have a confession to make. I hate exercise! I always have. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate physical activity. In fact, there are certain forms of physical activity I truly enjoy. When I was in college there was nothing more invigorating for me than locking myself in one of OBU’s racquetball courts for a solid thirty minutes of keeping the ball going. Then I’d come back later – when friends were available – for a nice game of racquetball. I definitely miss having unlimited access to courts. I also loved intramural sports in college. Although I was not very good at it (and our team as a whole rarely won a game!), flag football was a lot of fun. So was floor hockey – I was a decent goalie, if I do say so myself. The other thing I do enjoy is walking, as long as I have companionship while doing so. Late spring/early summer of 2006 was rather sad for me as I watched my wonderful walking buddies begin to move away.
What I dislike is mundane, boring, repetitive exercise routines. The one time in my life I found it enjoyable was one summer during my college years when I was living at home. A group of ladies from my home church got together several mornings a week to work out, and I loved it! But my enjoyment had nothing to do with the exercise (although I did get a good workout), everything to do with the companionship, and a bit to do with how good I felt when I actually disciplined myself to do it!
Lately Doug and I have finally worked back into an exercise routine. I’ll give more details on that in a separate post simply because it’s a cool thing to share, but the point of this post has nothing to do with the details of our routine and how it came about. The point of this post has more to do with how we’ve felt and the related perseverance.
Since we have started, there have been several times when we have both complained about aching here and hurting there. It would have been so much easier to just not exercise when our bodies hurt. But, we all know very well that if we wait until our bodies stop hurting to exercise again, then we’re really not doing ourselves any good. We have to get our bodies used to the level of exercise and then, if need be, challenge them to go a bit further. Just this week I added weights to the walking portion of our workout. Just a few pounds has made me start hurting all over again in brand new places!
Now, you know this is going to have a spiritual application! As I was mulling over all of this, I was struck by the similarities between spiritual discipline and exercise. I have heard numerous times – and have said it myself – that it would be nice to learn whatever God is teaching so I can get past the difficult growing stage and into a more restful time of life. But it dawned on me today that to rest from growing is like taking a few months, a year, two years, or more off from exercising. It doesn’t take long for our bodies to begin to sag again. It’s not just about that waistline – it’s about overall health. In the same way, when we decide that we need a break from growing, we begin to sag spiritually.
As we discipline ourselves in a area where God is growing us, the obedience becomes easier. Once that happens, we are then ready for God to take us to the next level. For example, when we first start to tithe, it can be a real challenge. But, after a while it becomes second nature. God then moves us to the next step – increasing our percentage beyond the 10%; offering regular support for a missionary over and above our tithe; learning that tithe goes beyond our paycheck and into other areas of our lives. We never stop tithing; we never stop growing. Each phase does eventually get easier, but then it is time to add another pound or two to our weights!
There are going to be days in both forms of discipline when we just want to scream, “But I hurt so badly! I just can’t do this today!” Those are the days we have to be most devoted to getting up and doing it anyway. Those muscles are being strengthened! The day will come when that exercise won’t hurt anymore. Then we’ll be told to add another dimension to our workout. And meanwhile, we’ll see our physical and spiritual lives grow in health. We’ll see our challenges become easier. And, we’ll be that much more effective in all aspects of our lives. So, here’s to working out, even when it hurts!