The illness required me to stay home from work quite a bit, and I had time to ruminate on the blessing of health, and on the connections between our physical and spiritual lives.
A little bit of background: before I got sick, and smack in the middle of my Couch to 5K running program I had been striving to complete, Ryan and I decided together to begin Bill Phillips' Body for Life (BFL) program. In a nutshell, the program consists of intense weight training, high-intensity interval aerobic training, and a (common sense) nutrition plan. I know it's cliche to say it, especially in January, but it's truly a lifestyle change for us. (And we started in November! So THERE! ;-) )
BFL is a twelve-week challenge, but it's not really meant for you to just do twelve weeks and then go back to your old way of life. It's meant to change how you look and feel so dramatically in those twelve weeks that you'll never want to go back to being a couch potato. I was extremely excited that this is something Ryan and I could do together; with C25K, I'd been running on my own. Ryan was just as committed and gung-ho as I was about weightlifting and eating right.
We were about two or three weeks into the program when I got sick. In my personal journal I wrote,
"I've been sick for two weeks now. There's nothing like an illness to make you really appreciate the health you normally enjoy. It fires up in my heart a desire to take advantage of feeling healthy: to apprehend and consistently practice and display discipline and drive to meet my goals.
I've treated my spiritual life the same way that I had treated my physical (fitness) goals before BFL: no planning, no real/concrete 'goals' set. Just wishes and vague plans--dreams. I realize now that I've got to be much more deliberate, or the enemy, who is quite willing to be calculating and deliberate, will best me, because I have not run to the Lord and hid beneath His wings."
The enemy isn't seeking to throw someone off their BFL program. He wants to turn them from God. But there are parallels between physical and spiritual discipline that I am just learning and that intrigue me. There is a connection.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Now, Paul isn't telling the Corinthian believers to get out to the track; he's talking about keeping the flesh under subjection to the Holy Spirit, having the Fruit of self-control. He's talking about persevering in our relationship with and obedience to Jesus Christ. But look: an athlete exercises self-control in all things. Is there something I can learn from that, something that might help my walk?
I think it's safe to say I've never been an extremely disciplined person. Academically, yes--I made A's my whole life. For me a B was an F, and a C simply unthinkable, devastating. But in pretty much every other area, I've done what pleased myself and haven't worried too much about self-control or self-denial. Jesus helped me with that a lot when we met, but I have come to realize how much I haven't listened to the Spirit in many areas where I believe it would please the Lord for me to exercise self-control, or to be more disciplined.
1 Tim 4:7b-8
...train yourself to be godly. 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.
Going back to my journal--when I wrote that I want "to take advantage of feeling healthy: to apprehend and consistently practice and display discipline and drive to meet my goals," I saw a connection between what I am doing physically and what I need to do spiritually.
You can't "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" with God. It doesn't work that way; it's not all about you and your effort. It's about crying out to Him, listening for Him, watching Him. But there is something to be said for being consistent and goal-oriented in seeking to obey Him. I think we actually have to be. I'm not being a type-A yuppie. I'm just agreeing with Paul. "Run that you may obtain [the prize]" and "I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
The goal, the prize is eternal life: to know (John 17:3) and be with Jesus, whom I love and who redeemed me from death, forever. Yeah, I want to be goal-oriented.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.