Thursday, October 25, 2012

Staying in Shape

Yesterday afternoon, I went on a long, seven-mile run.  That may not seem like much to some, but for a non-marathon person like myself, it is a long haul.  I decided to make myself do it because lately my runs have been no more than four miles at a time, and I can tell I am getting sluggish in my training.

My husband, Matt, who runs with me, has been doctoring and babying a pretty bad case of shin splints for the past six weeks or so.  Due to this, we haven't been able to run together much lately.  Since I got him running faithfully with me about a year ago, his running ability has improved significantly.  He now not only surpasses my ability in running, but he has also become my personal trainer.  He outruns me now in both distance and time; so when I run with him, he pushes me beyond what I typically do on my own.  Since his injury, my training has suffered--I have noticed a significant change in my ability with both distance and time.  It is remarkable to me how a lack of accountability and support truly affects a person.  When we "go it alone," we typically don't go as far or do as well.

The pastor of our church remarked about this in one of his summer sermons.  He said, "If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go with others."  I love that quote, and I have cited it in another one of my blogs entitled, "Flying Solo."  But it is also relevant here.  Whether in life or in running, when we try to "go the distance" alone, we just don't do as well.  In my particular case with running, I don't go far or fast when I go alone--I tend to "wuss out" a bit! 

So I decided to push myself a lot yesterday and go for a longer run around Lake Shawnee.  I ran the entire lake, which is nearly seven miles.  It was miserable.  I missed having Matt up ahead of me--it was seriously boring.  I also made the grave mistake of not checking the weather prior, and wore fall athletic gear when I actually needed to dress for summer.  By mile number five, I was having severe mucus issues (thanks to fall allergies), my stomach hurt, and I was sweating profusely from being improperly prepared with overdressing.  By mile number six, I had runner's chills and severe nausea (which means you're overheated and overstepping your ability).  By mile number seven, my face felt like it was going to explode, my ankles and knees were throbbing, and my chest was pounding like I weighed 300 pounds.  Even though I knew I was over-extending myself, I just kept pushing due to sheer pride.  This past summer, I was able to run the entire lake many times in the excruciating heat with no problem. Therefore, I refused to be a wimp yesterday and admit that only six weeks later, I couldn't do it.  I ended the run by vomiting on the side of the trail and creating quite a spectacle of myself.  I have never before done this.  So much for pride! Thankfully, few people were around.  It was a harsh wake-up call that since Matt's injury, I too, have gotten out of shape with long distance running.  I have needed my supporter and trainer to motivate me, support me, and push me to do better.

This got me thinking about our spiritual training and how similar it is to training in distance running.  When we get lazy with our Bible reading and prayer life, our spiritual training suffers;  thus, our spiritual resiliency becomes lax.  We approach life unprepared and with all the wrong gear.  We are lacking the tools and readiness needed to successfully and easily handle situations and problems that arise in life.  At the end of trials and testings, we can find ourselves vomiting in defeat instead of rejoicing with victory.  When we try to, "go it alone" in our spiritual walk, and we don't depend on others to support us and encourage us, we can get sluggish and dull.  We need others to push us along in life and sharpen us.  Even when we think we do, we don't always do a good job of this on our own.  I was faced with this harsh reality yesterday--that on my own, I don't push myself enough physically.  What is more convicting is the realization that I actually do a better job of pushing myself physically than I even do spiritually.  I sure don't push myself to read God's Word or pray to the point of total mental exhaustion!  Honestly, I know that I would profit much more from doing that than I did pushing and straining my body to such harsh physical levels.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  I wholeheartedly believe this verse is saying that we are called to spur each other on to good works and toward successful living in Christ.  We cannot stay in spiritual shape or physical shape when we aren't training properly and when we are lacking in support and accountability.  We need each other--to encourage each other, to push each other harder to go farther, and to inspire each other to remain faithfully active in prayer and in God's Word.  Spiritual fitness and physical fitness both require discipline, rigorous effort, support, and accountability.

Obviously, staying in shape spiritually is much more important than staying in shape physically--but both are actually somewhat interrelated.  If we don't feel good physically, chances are we are not going to feel that great mentally or spiritually, either.  It is a daily balancing act to maintain all aspects of our being in order to keep ourselves in overall decent shape.  Thankfully, God is there to nudge us and be the best Trainer and Supporter we will ever have.  He cares very deeply about all the components of our existence--our spiritual, mental, physical, and even our emotional well-being.  When we know Him personally and try to walk with Him daily, He has a way of letting us know when some area of our life is out-of-whack.  I praise Him for His gentle reminders and His ever-present help in all facets of my life.  I don't even want to know where I'd be today if I didn't know Him.  Without Him, no part of who I am would be in decent shape.  So today I praise Him for being the best Fitness Pro a girl could ever have (and please, God, heal Matt's injury quickly before I become a total slob.  I miss my running partner)!

1 Timothy 4:8, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

1 Corinthians 9:24-27, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.