Last week my lovely wife Esther and I spent a few days at a beautiful retreat center located on an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay. The purpose, besides getting away, was to participate in a program called “Wellness Week.” The event, led by several ministries focusing on health, allowed us to spend concentrated time addressing our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Last year, Esther attended the week and received a jumpstart to some changes that have made a significant difference in her life. I hoped it would do the same for me.
Over the last few years I have noticed some changes in me that I didn’t like. The most obvious, the change that everyone could see, was my weight. I had gained a lot of weight, and was the heaviest I had ever been. Other changes were less noticeable to others. I had less energy, and less focus. I was tempted to attribute this to getting older, but that was just an excuse.
So, hoping that I would receive the jumpstart that Esther had received, I said yes to traveling with her to the retreat. While I knew that the schedule would involve exercise sessions, and a restricted diet, I psyched myself up for the challenge. After all, if my daughter Carissa is going to spend a year in Mongolia, I can spend a week at a retreat center beating up my body.
I won’t bore you with the sweaty details, but I did find out some things that I think are worthy of conversation.
1. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit - If I am going to serve God and people in the way God intends, I need to take better care of myself. The lower energy and less focus I had been experiencing were not only the result of eating an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, they were a signal that something needed to change.
2. Short-term pleasure is not worth long-term pain - How many times have I read the story of Jacob and Esau, and Esau’s unwillingness to deny himself short-term pleasure, with the result of long-term pain. I preach spiritual denial of self, yet was presenting to God and my congregation an unwillingness to deny my body for God’s work. This had to change.
3. I don’t like the process, but I like the result - This should not surprise me, as it is a truth seen throughout Scripture. If we want long-term benefits, we must be willing to endure short-term pain. I dislike exercise, but I like the results. I dislike getting out of bed, but I like how I feel after an early morning walk. I dislike making some of the substitution decisions regarding food choices, but I like the result - not just in weight loss, but also in the way I feel after I eat. Short-term pain is worth it for long-term pleasure.
4. With God’s help, I can replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones - Again, how many times had I said this to people, yet failed to live it myself. That is hypocrisy, and God was not only willing to forgive me, but ready to re-train and discipline me.
5. Who we have in common is greater than what separates us - Most of the folks at the retreat are believers in Christ, and actively seeking to follow. However, many of the leaders are from a theological tradition that I have spent considerable time and energy talking about, explaining to those of my tradition “Why we are not like them.” Some things came up during the week that had the potential to separate us, and take the focus off the centrality of Christ. All of us chose not to do that, and it was fun to worship, fellowship, and journey together. I truly hope that the manner in which we handled such things was a blessing and not a hindrance to those few in attendance who are not yet Christ followers.
6. There will come a day when I am not able to do this, but today is not that day - I have no fear of death, yet I have much more to do in this life. I was not able to do all I have been called to do, because of my lack of care for the equipment God has given me. My lack of care for my body was beginning to affect my mind with a lack of focus. If this continued, I would be consistently living at less than God’s desire for my life. This is sin, and I refuse to live there.
I also learned some other things: I like starting my day with exercise, especially water aerobics. (Never thought I would say that!) I like eating healthier, although I will probably always miss my late night bowl of ice cream. Just because I know I will not enjoy something (like a rock climbing wall and a 25’ “big swing”) doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
Well, I am just beginning this journey. I have set some goals, and some routines to point me in that direction. So far, so good, but I have a long way to go. It is probably way too early to go public like this, but I function best with accountability. Feel free to ask me specifics, or initiate a conversation about your journey.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19