Reflecting on Your Faith & Fitness – Part 1

 

This past weekend, I had the honor of being one of four speakers at my church’s women’s retreat at a beautiful Christian camp nestled in the heart of the Texas hill country. Yesterday, the last day, featured a two-hour Reflection Walk in the morning. Each speaker was stationed at a peaceful spot somewhere on campus, and a total of four large groups would visit and spend thirty minutes or so being led through a quiet time of prayer, meditation, and, as the name of the activity makes clear, reflection on what they’d studied and learned throughout the weekend.

The station I was assigned was, to be honest, a little creepy at first. Removed from the main gravel road, tucked away in the woods, and with no sunshine pouring through yet nor familiar sounds of traffic, it had the makings of a scene from The Blair Witch Project. (I’m probably exaggerating; I’ve been a city girl for too long now…) Anyway, there were a few old wooden benches which formed a semicircle, and a rustic picnic table situated deepest into the unsettling forest, which is where I took my seat, opened my Bible, and watched a soft, sweet wind rustle its pages. I said a prayer, heard the birds start singing, then felt the Holy Spirit transform the spooky setting into a sanctuary.

The foundational verse of the retreat was Luke 10:27: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’” (NKJV). Each speaker spoke on one of the four subjects mentioned in the verse, be it uncontrolled emotions of the heart or stubborn strongholds of the mind. My topic, being strength, explored the reasons why our physical health and wellness is important to the Lord, and how finding our motivation in Him, the King (“Rexternal Motivation,” I called it), will provide sustainable results and a genuinely enjoyable fitness journey.

 

Reflect

 

I gave a snippet of my fitness-and-faith testimony during my one-hour talk, but during the Reflection time, I discussed it a bit more, beginning with the verse in 1st Peter that caused my perspective on the body-spirit connection to shift, or more accurately, to materialize for the first time, because for years I had completely compartmentalized my physical and spiritual wellbeing. Here’s the expanded version from my book, Fit for Faith.

I haven’t always depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance. It was only near the end of my struggle with anorexia and a binge-eating disorder that I realized God took great interest in the details of my life and wanted me to be well even more than my parents did. For nearly two years, I simply reasoned that my problems were silly and mundane, especially when compared to the events unfolding around the world and the needs of sick, hungry, and homeless millions in third world countries. I prayed only about the things that seemed worthy in my eyes, and working out obsessively and eating excessively hardly seemed to fit into that category. One day while flipping aimlessly through the New Testament, I came upon a passage that suddenly spoke directly to my heart:

 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” 1st Peter 5:6-7

 

The word “all” seemed to highlight itself on the page. God was encouraging me to lay down every single worry and care before Him, even those concerning caloric intake. As I knelt and cried out to Him, pouring out all my frustrations, fears, and guilt, I truly began to see God as my “Abba,” – daddy. My father recently went to be with the Lord, but I’ll never forget how he would stop whatever he was doing, regardless of his schedule, to listen to my problems, offer me advice, or simply ease my worries with one heartfelt hug. Just as he would kneel down to me when I was a little girl to listen intently and wrap me in his arms, so God “bends down” to hear our cares! (Psalm 116:2).

 

Many of the women in the Reflection time had worked out with me the previous day, and I coached them through several two-minute intervals, such as two minutes of reverse lunges, incline push-ups, and Russian twists. Following the two-minute pattern, I asked them to spend just two minutes reflecting on 1st Peter 5:7, thinking of anything they hadn’t fully surrendered to the Lord, and finally, casting those things over to Him.

My friend and fellow CrossFitter/tennis enthusiast, Teresa, after the group workout!
My friend and fellow CrossFitter/tennis enthusiast, Teresa, after the group workout!

I encourage you to also reflect on that verse. Whether you set a timer for two minutes, twenty seconds, or better yet, just pray and reflect until your spirit knows you’re done, I know you will be blessed if you simply set aside some time to take inventory of the burdens you’re carrying.

What needs to be handed over to the Lord? What problems are you trying to solve in your own feeble strength? Which habits are you relying on a self-help book or motivational guru to help you break? Which person are you embittered against and need to forgive? Whatever it is, surrender it, fully and completely, to the Father of Lights, who gives “good gifts”[1] to His children, including gifts of peace, restoration, breakthrough, and transformation.

In my next post, I will give you Part II of what I shared during the Reflection Walk. I pray it will be a blessing to you!

 

“In the darkest of nights cling to the assurance that God loves you, that He always has advice for you, a path that you can tread and a solution to your problem–and you will experience that which you believe. God never disappoints anyone who places his trust in Him.” – Basilea Schlink

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[1] Matthew 7:11

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