Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fitness and Spiritual Maturity

One year ago today, I was about 31 lbs. heavier than I am now.  I was feeling the need to lose some weight and get in shape, but struggled with motivation.  Just at that moment, a brother in Christ laid down the challenge I needed.  I began to be more careful about my food choices, and several times a week was doing cardio workouts on DVD.  I lost about 20 lbs. by the end of the summer when I was ready to have my tonsils removed.  In the two weeks following surgery, as I ate nothing but popsicles, I dropped an additional 10 lbs.  But, when I went back to solid food, about 8 lbs. found their way back.  I seemed to hit a wall over the winter - not gaining any more weight, but not losing any of it, either.  The workouts were no longer pushing me as hard as I needed and I knew I needed to kick it up a notch.

One day I caught (for about the 100th time) the commercial for the Insanity workout program.  Again, I was doubtful that the results were as good as promoted.  But I couldn't help feel like this might be the extra push I needed.  My wife and I agreed it was a worthwhile investment, so I made the order.

It arrived on March 5th, and I didn't see a reason to wait to start.  I immediately knew I was in for something brutal.  Let's just say the commercials make it look easy compared to what you actually go through.  This has pushed me like nothing has since I went through all-day football practices in the drought of 1988.  Each workout leaves you in a collapsed lump on the floor, dripping in sweat.  Between the workouts and following the nutrition plan, I lost 5 lbs. in the first week and about 3 more the second week.  I am know 1 lb. under my post-surgery weight and starting to feel in the best shape I've been in for years.

Do I do this to plug Insanity?  No.  But it is unlike any workout I have done before.  I say this all as a disclaimer to what I am about to say.  We should be careful about judging by external appearances.  I have seen people look at overweight preachers and they draw conclusions about the preachers spiritual life.  We can do the same about other brothers or sisters in Christ - assuming certain things about their spiritual maturity based on their physical fitness.  As a pastor who was, and still is, overweight, let me explain something.  Many pastors work 50, 60, 70 or more hours a week, plus seek to stay active with their family, AND seek to maintain a strong walk with Jesus Christ.  The pressures can be demanding, the stress levels high, and some weeks find you constantly on the go from one thing to the next.  Not by choice, but to save time, meals often become a trip to the nearest fast-food drive-thru.  That is not a recipe for physical fitness.  In the end, whatever the reason, one's physical appearance may or may not reflect as much of someone's spiritual life as we may assume.

With that, now entering my third week of Insanity, I have seen another reality.  keeping myself disciplined in doing the workouts each day, in addition to following a set nutrition plan with 5 meals a day has been quite time-consuming.  I have seen over the past two weeks, the temptation of keeping a disciplined fitness routine from crowding out a disciplined prayer life.

Am I saying all of this to excuse being overweight?  No.  That is something that is between you, God, and your family doctor.  There are thin people who are unhealthy and there are heavier people who are pretty healthy.  What I am saying is that we cannot allow ourselves to go too far in drawing spiritual conclusions about someone based on their weight.  Moody, Spurgeon and Luther were not slender men, based on pictures, but they were men of God.

What made me decide to get serious about my weight?  Three reasons:

1) I wanted to be up to whatever God wanted for me.  I did not want to live as a victim of having no energy for the work God has for me.  I also didn't want to be another 50-year old pastor who has to be sidelined or scale back in ministry because I suffered a heart attack.  So, to avoid that, I need to start now.

2) I wanted to be a good steward of the body God has given me to use for Him.  I didn't want my appetites to rule me.  I didn't want to be a slave to food.  And I now see food differently.  It is no longer all about what tastes good, but what will best fuel me for the work God has for me and the Insanity workout that awaits me every night.

3) I wanted to do it for my family.  I wanted to set an example of being healthy.  I didn't want to be the overweight Dad that my kids are ashamed to have show up at a school function.  I wanted the energy to stay ahead of my kids rather than lazily always dragging behind them.

So, I'll let you know how my trip through Insanity goes.  Pray for me.  And, instead of assuming spiritual laziness from those you consider overweight, hold off on a judgment that you cannot truly make.

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