It has been a long time coming since I could stand and say that I have a healthy relationship with my body. Anyone who has grown up with me could be the first to tell you that my priority of dieting and exercising has drastically changed in the past 4 years. A lot of that has to do with the classic freshman weight gain, the up rise of social media and self promoting, the enemy of comparison, but mostly with my lack of understanding of what exercising unto God truly means. However, Jesus is gracious and merciful, and His light has dawned in the darkness (Psalm 112)! I can now take this body that Jesus has given me and steward it well! In fact, it is His will that I do so!
Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
We want to cultivate our bodies in order that they are a help, rather than a hindrance, in the cause of love. If being overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy hinders your ability to do the good works God has prepared for you and to love others well, there needs to be a lifestyle change.
I relate to this in a more emotional way. I was never overweight to the point of not being able to get up and do something, but the lack of diet and exercise caused me to gain weight, which lead to overwhelming insecurities, which then affected my relationship with the Lord, which then hurt my ministry.
When I say “overwhelming insecurities” I mean, I remember opting out of my sororities formal for the sake of not having to compare myself to my tiny, tanned, and toned sorority sisters. I remember avoiding mirrors and pictures for the sake of not having to see how “imperfect” my body was. I remember dreading spring break plans because it meant being in a swim suit.
I failed at loving others because I didn’t love myself. It was hard for me to use my gift of encouragement because I was jealous of others. I was so consumed about how much I disliked my thighs, that I wouldn’t engage in conversations at girls nights. It was an ugly trap that I didn’t know how or what to do to get out… and boy, I can’t tell you how many times I prayed-
Psalm 139:14- “I am fearfully, wonderfully, and purposefully made.”
Proverbs 31:30- “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”
1 Samuel 16:7- “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
…Nothing seemed to work.
I just accepted this mindset that, “this was my body and I just had to live with hating it.”
Going into the spring semester of my senior year at KSU, I decided to set a goal to run a half marathon. In all honesty, I signed up for the race because I saw that my sister did one, and my competitive-natured-self wanted to do the same. However, after 3 months of running and training in the brutal Georgia summer weather, I lost a lot of weight. Admittedly, A LOT of weight. But i didn’t even really notice until others began pointing it out.
I went back to school and work after the summer break shocked by the response of my peers, coworkers, and family about my body and the weight loss. At the time, I took great offense to the remarks. It hurt more than encouraged me. I thought, “Was I not beautiful before?” “Did you think I was a cow before?”
BUT, I think that the enemy was trying to take a sweet grace from the Lord and steal the glory it deserved!
I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to feel pretty and confident in my skin. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Jesus created an innocent way for that! My goal in being equipped to run 13.1 miles resulted in a life change for the better. Praise Jesus!
I learned so much through that season about the connection between physical health and emotional/spiritual health. As Jesus opened my eyes to his answered prayer of my physical body, I grew in my worship and thanks for him! As I grew in my love and thanks to Jesus, I grew in my love for others.
He taught me that taking care of ourselves physically results in emotional and spiritual health- that not only are we called to train our minds for godliness by reading and meditating on God’s word, but we are to also train our bodies training by eating and exercising well!
The mind and the body are connected and belong to God. He desires for our whole self to be healthy: physically, spiritually, emotionally.
Now, this doesnt mean that we need to all be perfect figures! Absolutely not. 1 Timothy 4:8, evens says, “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.” If bodily health becomes more important than spiritual health, we will fall into the temptation to make exercise and eating well an idol. We will elevate our external beauty over our inner beauty which Paul warns us against in 1 Peter 3- “Do not let your adorning be external, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart (Jesus).”
Likewise, our souls are the ones that really matter when we stand before the throne of God. Not our weight.
With all of that, as a Christian, our aim in exercise is not weight loss and attraction. Rather, we aim at greater joy in God, and greater love for our neighbors.
As John Piper explains elsewhere, “Today, my main motive for exercise is purity and productivity. By purity I mean being a more loving person (as Jesus said, “love your neighbor.”). By productivity, I mean getting a lot done (as Paul said, “abounding in the work of the Lord.”). In short, I have one life to live for Jesus. I don’t want to waste it. My approach is not mainly to lengthen it, but to maximize purity and productivity now.”
Today, I make that my aim, too!! I pray that the Lord would help me exercise and eat well in order that I may be able to do the good works he designed for me to do! As I previously stated, it is easy to fall into the trap of exercising to lose weight or to be attractive, but I plead that Jesus would help me to not elevate good looks over godliness.
Father, may my exercise not be about me, but about my increased enjoyment of Jesus. Father, guard me from valuing bodily training more than godliness. Rather, make these efforts holy, through my acting in faith, so that this exercise serves my holiness, instead of competing with it. Father, grant me to see that what makes exercise holy is my aim that exercising would lead to an increased readiness to sacrifice for others! Amen!