By: Claire Vogel
Just past the end of the Advent season, right as the twelve days of Christmas close, another holiday looms. With New Year’s Day comes the Feast of the Unreasonable Expectation, the “secular” feast (or should we say famine?) day when goals are set for the new year and plans are drawn out to straighten the path towards becoming the best, mightiest, most awesome version of oneself. With much fanfare, resolutions will be shared with family, friends, and social media.
I say “secular” like this is a holiday only the heathens celebrate, but this annual tradition is carried out by many. And actually, it’s a good thing to make goals and resolutions for yourself as we begin a whole new year! Just, please, don’t let me hear you swear you’ll detox, hit the gym, do a new juice cleanse every month, and lose fifteen pounds by February. I can give you fifteen good reasons why creating such diet and fitness goals for yourself is pointless. One: humans aren’t wired to make dramatic alterations to their physique in a short period of time, because it’s not evolutionarily helpful. A saber-toothed tiger could come along and gobble you up while you’re weakened by your kale-and-sesame fast, and I would hate that.
Once, at a retreat about using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, 1 Timothy 4:8 was the basis of a talk. Paul tells Timothy that “Physical training is of some value, but holiness is valuable for all things, both the present life and the life to come.” The guy giving the talk, my friend Will, paused here to say, “Notice how Paul says, ‘physical training is of some value…’” We are, in fact, meant to maintain our bodies to glorify God, who made them. Now, Will and I are runners. In high school, cross country was practically my introduction to self-discipline, a concept that begs to be discovered rather than taught. For me, running is challenging, rewarding, and sometimes strangely cathartic. For others, it’s brutal and unnecessary. “The pounding makes my whole body hurt,” says my friend Bre. No matter your opinion about running, there are a zillion ways to work out. Go for walks, stretch daily, head to the gym if you are privy to a membership, do bodyweight exercises, Insanity workout videos (sooo hard), or ride your bike. And switch it up! Running and I have been on a break lately, and it feels good to give the ol’ upper body some attention.
It’s important to ask yourself why you work out. Are you interested only in obtaining the perfect size and shape? Then, my friend, you are missing the best benefits. Working out gets back to our roots, from the days when every task was laborious and every meal required much hunting and gathering. For many people, this is still the case, but as long as you don’t have to walk to the well twice a day for water, you should probably supplement your daily activities with exercise that honors the way your body was made to be. Indeed, it is crazy what the human body can do, and to stretch and challenge it intentionally means to partake in your very own miracle of metabolism (not to mention mentality). And, of course, it feels good to be strong. For me, physical strength makes me feel capable, energized, and inspired. I’m not #swole or anything but I can climb the stairs without wheezing, which seems appropriate for my age.
Paul was wise to connect physical training with spiritual discipline, because the two can go hand-in-hand. If your mind is trained to keep your body disciplined at exercise, it will also know that much more what discipline is like for your spirit.