I read a lot of fitness magazines, and see images of athletic women with crazy amazing bodies. These women are slim, muscular and in great health because of the what they consume, supplements they take, and dedication they put into weights and endurance. I can see the results of their hard work, hear their stories of dedication and clean eating, and it inspires me.
I watched a documentary on Lolo (the olympic runner) the other day, and had the same reaction: “That’s badass. I want to be like that.” With the Olympics coming up, I would bet many of us will be having those same reactions to the physical feats we watch in awe.
If all we do is feel inspired, however, but never make an effort to emulate the traits we admire to reach the goals we dream of, it’s of little benefit. When I’m working out, if I watch TV or listen to slower tempo music, I get exercise, but don’t reap as many rewards as possible. I’ve noticed that when I workout, if I listen to music with fast tempos and motivational beats, the kind that just make you want to move, or strikes an emotional chord, I workout harder. I run faster. I push longer. Beast Mode.
It turns something on in me in an unexplainable way. When this happens, I realize as helpful as it is to watch Access Hollywood to pass the time, I workout about twice as hard when I just keep the most inspiring music in my ears. When Lolo came to mind as I ran on the treadmill the other day, causing me to pick up my pace, it struck me that these types of motivations and goals work similarly in my spiritual life.
I’m in a major season of transition, and it is not easy. I feel God calling me to leave things behind that I never expected to, in order to pursue even more. It’s as painful as running sprints or squatting with a heavily loaded barbell. Well, much more painful, actually. Like the future image of a body and health I’d like to achieve, but can only dream about because I haven’t arrived, I’m headed to a destination that I’m not even sure what it holds. I just have faith that it too will look and feel good.
But this ideal place I’m headed does not come easy. A hunger to go deeper with God doesn’t just create an amazing Spirit-filled life. Moving into “destiny”, as cliche as that is, doesn’t come without opposition and critics. Change and new identity doesn’t happen without sacrifice.
To keep moving forward, we have to fuel our faith. We have to feed that hunger for God. An Olympic sprinter like Lolo, or a bodybuilder like Arnold, probably doesn’t jog 2 laps for a workout, lift light weight, eat junk food, or hang out with the Monday night football crowd or pie-eating contest winners. They probably hang out with other athletes, listen to motivational videos, watch their idols win competitions, keep only whole foods in their fridge, and push their limits in every workout. They didn’t just arrive at champion status.
We can’t either. When I listen to certain sermons, worship, and spend time with certain people, it fuels my spiritual fire. It pushes me to keep striving for that goal that seems unattainable – almost mystical – and leave the old behind. When I set my eyes and heart elsewhere, focus on the past, or spend time with people who discourage more than encourage, it throws everything off balance. It’s like watching TV at the gym, and then going to eat a burger, indulging in what seems good, but leaves you lacking.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good” (Proverbs 13:20 20.) I used to think of the wise as people who know God and fools as the partyers or some crazy immature crowd of people. I’m learning that even Christians can operate only in worldly wisdom and not truly spur each other on it faith. Or simply, in certain seasons, some people are better to surround ourselves with.
It’s not necessarily as black and white as I thought. I’ve had to shift priorities and let go of certain atmospheres or crowds that are not bad at all, but are just not what I need in this season to truly push me forward. It has been as challenging as switching from soda to water for the good of one’s best health. Not easy, rarely as tasty until you’re used to it, but ultimately for the best.
I always thought it was ridiculous that some parents would only let their kids listen to Christian music or watch only Touched by an Angel, or Veggie Tales. Actually, I still think that’s ridiculous, but I get the idea. What we let into our mind and lives shapes us, probably far more than we consciously realize. The movies I watch, music I listen to, and places I spend my time in this season can completely shift my mindset or throw me off balance.
Like the soda and water example, a soda won’t ruin your workout goals once in a while. But drinking it every day will completely derail the desired outcome. It’s usually the subtle things like that we think are innocent that are what’s actually preventing us from our best.
It’s a new year. A new season. What are your goals? Establish them. Know the purpose and motivation for getting there. Ask God to help you push through the “hard workouts” and to discern what will be the tipping points from average to amazing. Then stand firm, and watch as the hard work pays off and paves the way to success and joy!