… so I asked God for help.
I’m trying to include Him in even my small decisions, instead of just running to Him when I faltering under the weight of something big. So I prayed, “God, please show me why I should exercise, give me a fresh perspective, renewed desire for something I know is beneficial to my well-being.”
If you know me at all, you know that I have been an athlete for many years. Starting in 6th grade, I played many sports, exercised for fun on the weekends, trained competitively in college, and simply like to be active. Getting up in the morning for a run or spin class or ab workout has never been a second thought. It was simply my default, it was what I did.
Until this season of life. I began a new job that I enjoy, gearing up for a busy Fall complete with more responsibilities and commitments — all good things. Also, for the first time in a long time, I am truly, entirely content in my body. I’m eating well and freely, I look in the mirror and feel good, if I’m being candid. A gift from God, especially considering my past battles with body image and perfection. Freedom, beauty, confidence – who I am in Christ.
Praise the Lord, right? Yes, yes, yes. Praise Him.
I then realized something interesting. Up went finding my true, lasting contentment and identity in Jesus, prioritizing Kingdom efforts over my vain work… down went my motivation to exercise.
What used to drive me — up at 6am for a long summertime run, getting home late from an after-work spin class — was my insatiable discontent with my body. I was in the mindset that intense, regular exercise was necessary for me to feel okay with myself, for me to eat certain foods, for me to meet the expectations of those around me. I was fearful of losing momentum, not being I was afraid I’d gain a pound of two, but because my mindset was that how I currently am is not good enough, I need to be different than what I am right now.
I knew I had made exercising and self-image an idol, and everyday I prayed, Change me. I made progress, God transformed (like He always does when you sincerely ask), and here I am walking in freedom.
So, to bring us back around, since my exercise is no longer being driven by the culture’s standard of beauty/fitness or my own personal discontent, I struggle to do it.
And thus I wrestle, because I genuinely enjoy activity. I like to ride my bike, I like to hike mountains with my husband, I like to swim in my parent’s pool, I like to jog around a city I’m visiting. I like to dance in the kitchen and try new things.
But, my motivation muscle was cramping.
I began reflecting on 1 Timothy 4:7–9, “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” And so began my inner dialogue…
How do I prioritize something that is difficult when I know that there are other things I could be doing that the Bible says is more beneficial? How do I balance?
It’s great to take care of ourselves, to be good stewards of the body that God gave us. But, taking time out of my day for physical fitness is a little more difficult for me now since I see that, truly, physical exercise is second best, compared to spiritual disciplines.
I talk about this with J and this is where we end up:
Exercise is deeply beneficial — I sleep better, I am more focused mentally, I usually have more energy, I can tackle more adventures, and it builds strong muscles and bones so that I age well. Exercise can stop being the end goal, but a means to energize and strengthen me to be Chelsea.
Being Chelsea means loving people the best I can, it means studying the Bible and praying, adventures in the kitchen, glorifying and enjoying and obeying God, photographing literally almost everything I see, being creative at work and at home, reading books and doodling letters, traveling and hosting, giving of my energy and time. I exercise to do all of these things better.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
My new exercise manifesto:
– Enjoy the activity. Let it breathe life.
– Invite God in. Give glory and thanks for health.
– Be strengthened. To be the best Chelsea I can be.
My thoughts. I’d love to hear yours!