Something I’m learning about a “health journey” is that it’s called a “journey” for a reason.
The state of your health is an ongoing process and throughout that process you will find yourself in many different stages.
- When I left high school (age 18) I weighed about 135lbs.
- By the time I left college I got up to about 175-180lbs.
- About 4 years ago when I was 36 I weighed about 215-220lbs.
That was a period of 18 years during which I put on about 85lbs. That’s not great. But it took me18 years to put that weight on.
In January when I turned 37 I got tired of something…that something was me having to take a deep breath and holding it in order to bend over and tie my shoes. I had been doing it so long I just didn’t even notice. But for some reason, in December of that year I noticed it, and I was mortified. I instantly recognized how bad a shape I had gotten in.
I was also tired of the incessant indigestion I had every single day since I was about 21. Doctors I went to just gave me pills, which didn’t treat the problem – only a symptom. And I’m convinced as a result I now also deal with psoriasis.
I wanted this all to change so that January I looked at my wife and I said, “I’m going to lose this weight.”
Of course, I said that like every year, so my wife didn’t really believe me. But I was quite serious.
That week I began what is known as the Keto diet and within a month I had lost 15lbs and within 4 months I had lost 40lbs. Changing my diet and being more conscious of my physical condition got me to a place where I was suddenly able to tie my shoes without holding my breath AND the indigestion was gone.
Since that time I have gone through a lot of ups and downs (especially around the holiday’s – like now). I would put a little on, I’d take a little off. The lowest I have gotten in the last 4 years is 165, which is less than I weighed when I got married in 2005.
As of today I weigh in around 175lbs. That’s 40lbs heavier than when I graduated high school, but there are some differneces:
- I don’t have indigestion
- I am going to the gym regularly and feel stronger than I did in college
- I am wearing clothes sizes closer to my high school size than college
- According to the “charts” I’m actually right in the middle of where I need to be at my age and height
- I generally feel better than I have for 18 years
It took my 18 years to put on the weight and about 4 months to get where I needed to be. But it didn’t happen over night and it certainly didn’t happen without making necessary changes to my diet and activity level. I’m not perfectly where I want to be, but I continue to work and know that I will need to constantly stay on top of things to continue in the right direction.
Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength
There are a lot of similarities between my health journey and what Christians call the “spiritual journey”.
I’m going to introduce a couple words here: justification and sanctification.
You see, when I became a believer I was “justified” through Christ – meaning, he took my sin upon Himself and took the punishment that was mine. He took the justice due for my sin and took as His own.
This is immediate. This is justification.
This is like the moment I realized I was fat, unhealthy, and needed to make a change. Recognizing I was a sinner in need of a savior and turning to Jesus with the mess that I had become was like the moment I noticed that I was having to hold my breath to tie my shoes. It was embarrassing, humbling, and strangely motivating.
Once I became a believer (justification), God wasn’t done. Because like in my health journey, it’s not enough to simply acknowledge I was out of shape (a sinner). I needed (no…I wanted) to make some changes.
So when it came to my spiritual journey, the Holy Spirit then began the process of what is known as “sanctification”. This is the process where God, over time, works out of me the impurities of my sin, changes my behaviors, and makes me more and more like Jesus.
This is longterm.
This is like the period of time where I began to change my diet, become more active, and take steps to work out the impurities that had invaded my body (fat, psoriasis, poor gut health, slothfulness, etc.) that my poor health decisions over 18 years had brought to me.
Likewise, sanctification is an ongoing process, and like my health it requires constant attention, discipline, and awareness.
There is a passage in Mark 12 that, in light of my health and spiritual journey, has taken on a new meaning.
You see, starting in verse 28 one of the teachers of the law wanted to test Jesus and he asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied to them, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater thant hese.”
You see, I might have been loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind…but I wasn’t loving him with all my strength. My strength being found in my body. My body was out of shape. My body was not loving God.
By taking control of my health (my body / my strength) I am actually loving God. It isn’t enough to just love Him with my heart, soul, and mind. He wants me to love him with my body too. He wants all of his sons and daughters to love Him this way.
Several years ago I heard a pastor (from the pulpit) ranting against people who smoke and drink saying that they were dishonoring God with their bodies. Interestingly, he was severely obese AND followed up his rant by boasting how he was going to go to the Ryan’s buffet after church and put a hurting on it (gluttony).
How could he not see the hypocrisy in what he was saying and doing?
But then again…how could I not see the hypocrisy I had been living for 18 years?
There are a couple other scriptures that come to mind on this topic:
First, Romans 12:1.
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to PRESENT YOUR BODIES as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your SPIRITUAL SERVICE OF WORSHIP.”
Holy smokes! You know what I had been doing during those 18 years? I was leading worship through music in various local churches. I was singing to God with my lips, and leading others to do so, but I wasn’t worshiping Him with my body!
Again, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 how important our body is in worshipping and loving God:
“Don’t you realize that your BODY IS A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must HONOR GOD WITH YOUR BODY.”
As believers, our bodies are no longer our own. They are God’s. Our bodies are HIS temple that the Holy Spirit actually lives in, something he paid a great price for. When we ignore our bodies and let them get out of shape and gloat about destroying a buffet after church, is it possible that we are in fact doing the opposite of worshipping and honoring God?
I think we are.
The greater point here though is that God doesn’t desire that we love with Him with only a part of ourselves, but with all of ourselves. And when we neglect one aspect of that, we aren’t giving Him everything.
This has become a bit of a conviction for me, but also a motivation. It motivates me to look deeper and harder at my entire being and determine where I might not be putting forward my all to love Him.
After all, Jesus gave his body for me…should I not also give him mine?