The lie of being physically strong- part 1 of 3

I recently started walking. When I say recently, I mean in the last two weeks. 20 minutes in the morning. 20 minutes in the early evening. It’s been nice to get out and walk again. The sun arrives at around 5:30 am and sets around 9 pm so there is lots of daylight to get many things done….even walk two times a day if I want.

Moving to a new state where I can breathe without feeling short of breath is a joy to my lungs. The almost 7 years of living in Texas put a serious dent in my ability to exercise along with the addition of extra pudge that took up permanent residence on my body since having my son over 8 years ago. 

The ability to walk outside again, without the negative side affects of being allergic to all the plants in Texas, has prompted me to think about the pros and cons of physical exercise.  I’ve read a few articles that attempt to convince Christians that we should be exercising to the “glory of God”, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

As Christ followers, we can use the term “for the glory of God” to pretty much any activity we love to do and want to continue to do. 

For example…..
We can raise our families…to the glory of God.
We can cook meals for others…to the glory of God.
We can rest….to the glory of God.
We can work out….to the glory of God.

See….working out can appear to a be good thing…even a Godly thing.

We can manipulate Bible verses to infer that working out, staying and/or achieving a certain level of physical fitness is a good and Godly venture. 

We can tell ourselves that endurance is God ordained because Paul uses the word in scripture and also uses the analogy of “running a good race” to describe the Christian life in Hebrews 12:1. There are a few other Bible verses that give reference to fighting the good fight, running with endurance and finishing races. These are all fitness words.

There is the misconceived assumption that if Paul is using fitness words in his epistles…he must be justifying the training of our mortal bodies to be strong while simultaneously attributing this strength and training to the Christian life.

We all know that our bodies do not run races with endurance with half-hearted motivation. It takes discipline and strength….and lots of it.

Working out makes us strong. It gives us endurance to face not only our over-extended, over-socialized existence but it also shakes up our mundane existence as well. It gives clarity to the cluttered mind. It might even give us the physical strength we need to save people from burning buildings. 

Overall….on the surface, it might appear that there are more pros to working out and staying physically fit than there are cons. However, my hiatus of being physically fit has helped me see physical fitness and working out through different lenses.

My fitness journey started when I was 15. I was never an athlete in school but I enjoyed working out to tv fitness programs at home and regularly attended local aerobics classes. I enjoyed working up a serious sweat and loved how my body responded to exercise. My love of fitness stalled when I got pregnant at 18 and 19 but after my second daughter was born, I took up running to get back into shape.

Running was my “get away time”. I looked forward to my long runs. I would run for over an hour in the heat of the day to work on my tan. I loved it. I felt strong. I felt invincible. I felt….not weak.

Even though I made a gazillion wrong life choices, my love of running and fitness never wavered. It gave me solace and peace in the midst of bad life choices.

Working out deceived me into believing I was ok…when I wasn’t.

By the time my daughters were in 2nd and 3rd grade, my fitness enthusiasm evolved from running and aerobics classes to weight lifting. Weight lifting was the best friend I never knew was missing from my life. I fell for it…and I fell hard.

I was obsessed.
I would often joke with people that working out was my god, but in reality, it was not a joke. 

I idolized my body . I loved how I felt when I was toned, muscular and physically fit. The gym was my church and working out was my worship.

Anyone that takes physical fitness seriously knows how easily one can slip into this kind of thinking. 

At my peak…I was able to achieve 16-18 % body fat and could get down in that leg press contraption with 4 – 45 lb plates on each side and bring that thing down for 4 full sets of 10-12 reps each. This was just my warm up. I also did squats, forward lunges, backward lunges,  dead-lifts, lying leg curls, seating leg curls, and calf raises.  I loved….loved…loved the strength I had. Leg days were my favorite and most satisfying day of my weight lifting week. I would walk out of the gym with my legs shaking from muscle fatigue and smile to myself for being disciplined…..and strong. 

random woman doing what i used to love 

My strength deceived me….even when my personal life was falling apart.

I would obsessively calculate calories, fats, carbs, and protein and had the ratios meticulously accounted for to gain the most muscle.

Food was used as means to an end and for the sole purpose of gaining muscle and staying fit. I never considered food to be enjoyed or shared between friends and family. Food was my enemy and it needed to be manipulated so that I could reap the benefits I wanted. Nothing more. Nothing less.

This lifestyle went on for years.

My two daughters spent more time in day care centers than they did with me personally on any given day. I dropped my girls off at our regular day care center at 5:30 am so I could go to work at a crisis center for children. The day care center took them to school and picked them up from school until I got out of work or a college class. I picked them from day care and dropped them off at my local gym day care for two more hours, almost daily, so that I could worship my body in the name of fitness. 

I wish I could get that time back with my girls, who are now young adults in their early twenties.  At that time however, it was more important to me to stay a certain body fat level, more important to lift a certain weight, more important to look a certain way in clothes. I can never recoup or make up for that time my girls spent in gym day care centers. That time is gone….just like my strength.

Working out deceived me into believing I was strong…when I was not.
Working out made me a physically strong mom who could outrun and out lift your average mom, but in reality I was a weak mom who avoided being a mom by prioritizing “me time” away from my kids to work out or run.  

If that wasn’t bad enough, I also used to believe that sick people were sick…only because they did not take care of themselves. I used my fitness to self righteously judge weak people, overweight people, and undisciplined people. Of course I would never admit to saying this out loud. Outwardly I was as nice as I knew how to be. Inwardly….my well conditioned, yet selfishly conceited heart told a different story. 

I had been a Christian for a little over a year when the lie of physical strength slowly began to show itself….and I didn’t know how to deal with the lie. 

….to be continued.

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