Monday, April 20, 2009

Spiritual Fitness

There was a time, in the days before multiple pregnancies and the busy life of motherhood, when I was in pretty good shape. I even enjoyed exercising! But as the babies arrived and my world became more complex, I pushed workouts to the side and began to view my own fitness as a luxury, not a necessity.

Now, however, as the big four-o looms on the horizon and I see my metabolism slow before my eyes, I'm realizing that being healthy actually is a necessity - for when I'm healthy, I'm better equipped to fulfill all that God has given me to do as a wife, mom, and member of the Body.

So in January (no originality in my timing, eh?) we joined our local YMCA and I began working out in earnest and training for my first 5K. It hasn't been easy - the hardest part is not the exercise itself. I'm sure you can guess what the hardest part is... finding the time to go work out. I've had to get creative - sometimes the whole family goes and the older ones walk on the treadmill next to me while the Littles are in the nursery. Sometimes I sneak out at naptime while S (14) babysits. A couple of times I've even gone after supper while The Man of My Dreams tucks everyone in bed.

All my hard work has paid many dividends: I ran the 5K - with a personal best time; I'm now training for a 10K; I've lost a few pounds (hoping for more!); and I feel less stressed and more energetic. But there's a problem...

...what about my spiritual fitness?

My energy level may be better than in years, but I still struggle daily with my sinful heart. My attitude deteriorates, my faith lags - many times I feel spiritually and emotionally drained at the end of the day. I've been convicted recently, however, that my heart is worn out and thirsty because I've not spent time nourishing it with the life-giving stream of prayer and time in God's Word.

I've made every effort to make time for my workouts, but in the process, let my time with the Lord be limited to the scraps of the day - if I "happen to get a moment of quiet." Lord, forgive me for my divided heart!

What's a girl to do? How can we keep house, care for little ones, deal with school - whether at home or "abroad," exercise and faithfully spend time with the Lord? I've just finished reading Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney. It's a quick, easy read, full of biblical wisdom from a lady who takes Titus 2 seriously. The first tip she gives for finding the time we need to "get it all done" (hint 'all' here means 'all the Lord wants you to do') is to rise early and sit at Jesus' feet. She points to multiple passages in Scripture where Jesus rose early and withdrew to pray. Why not follow His example?

I want to interject a word here - no guilt, no legalism! Our salvation does not depend on when we have our quiet time! For some, early morning may not be the best time. When my babies were small and we were up in the night, afternoon naptime was when my mind was most alert for reading and praying. But now that I have older children and homeschool, afternoon naptime is catch-up time. If I save my time for the Lord for the afternoon, it quickly gets overshadowed and forgotten. For this season of life, for me, the early morning seems to be the best. I've not yet joined the "5am Club" as Mahaney suggests, but I'm in the "6:30 club" and that's working for me. (Understand that since we homeschool, most of my kids don't get up until 8, so I have the house to myself at 6:30.)

The point is that we need to make spending time with our Lord - our Friend of sinners; our Wonderful Counselor - a priority. Getting to know Him through reading His Word; praising and thanking Him; and pouring out our burdens in prayer. Mahaney points out that trying to get through a day - or a week - without first seeking the Lord is like a two year old insisting she can make her PB & J "by self!!"

I am so sad that, like Martha, I have allowed the busy-ness of life to weigh me down with many cares. I'm sorry for the sweet fellowship I've missed on the days when I just "couldn't find the time." But, but God's grace, I'm hoping to continue to be an active member of the "6:30 Club" (might even move it to 6) and sit at Jesus' feet. I want to drink deeply from the living streams of the Word of God that I may be firmly planted, spiritually fit, and overflowing Christ's love to my family.


Mary @ The Writer's Block said...

Amen, amen, and amen, friend.

Right there with you. Congrats on the physical fitness achievements.

I'm struggling with both physical and spiritual fitness at the moment. I just thought this morning, "Maybe I'll just start getting up at 4:30." A bit in jest, but perhaps I'll revisit that more seriously. I'll have to get Mahaney's book, too.

(and I'm so jealous you have sleepers until 8! everyone is an early riser here, except Mama.)

One thought that has worked for me in the past. Can you listen to sermons/scripture while working out? I've always enjoyed feeding my soul while working my body. My DH listens to scripture in the car on the way to work. Also, can you read your Bible while you are on the treadmill or elliptical? I've actually seen some folks in the gym doing that. I think it would give me a headache (all the bouncing around), but I can listen.

Peace to you and God bless as you pursue physical and spiritual fitness!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

thanks, Mary. I've tried sermons and books on tape while I'm exercising. Works ok if i'm just walking at the park or on the stationary bike. But I push myself pretty hard on the elliptical, and if I'm doing that or running on the treadmill or outside, I really have to have music that makes my feet move! When I'm working that hard, my brain can't think rationally enough for "words." LOL

Cathy said...

I'm there too. I used to love getting up early, but don't anymore!

mom24 said...

This is exactly where I'm at and you really worded it well. I started a new workout program in Jan and was going at 5am so that I could be home in time to get my quiet time in and also get breakfast done before the kids got up.
But I've noticed that the Lord won't allow me success in consistency at the gym (or other things) if I don't put Him first. And so...the gym is what goes if I don't have time in the day (or can't get my eyeballs cracked open at the crack of dawn - lol!). *sigh* It's so tough to balance everything but it helps me to remember that God doesn't want me to do it all and He will help me do what He wants me to do (which I do believe is to try to be more healthy as I get older).
The book sounds like one I should read! THanks!

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I am so amazed at your training physically - you go girl.

I have found the same balance is so tough. I feel like anytime I commit to one area, another slides, adn right now I have to focus very purposefully and accept that I don't have time and energy for it all.

Course, I don't need to think about training for a 10K...LOL...can't do that at 31 weeks prego :)

I have often had to rethink the time I set aside to do my devotions. It is different in different seasons. Currently naptime doesn't work because I am often sleeping, so I am back to evening times.

Anyway - great post, great reminders.

Jennifer Shand said...

All I can say, is - thank you! Something I needed to hear in my own life right now. Why is it so hard to get up in the morning?

Wendy said...

So glad you are doing this!
When is your 10K?

Melissa Lester said...

This was beautifully put and so true of most of us trying to meet the demands of a busy day.

Kim said...

Congratulations on our 5k! Awesome job! I am a blogging friend of Kate and just wanted to say hello. I love that book as well as Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. I have 4 children and homeschool, so I know all about trying to run and still be able to fulfill my top priorities(time with the Lord, ministering to my children's hearts, being a godly wife, etc) But's God's grace is sufficient!

It is nice to meet you!