By Brianna Hines
There is something amazing about watching a body reach its full potential. I just can’t get enough of the Olympics, and this last year in particular, watching those runners run like no other human being on the planet can run, you just can’t help but stand in awe of the Creator of these bodies of ours! Look at what they are capable of!
I am also a runner. I hesitate to say that because I am probably the farthest thing from an Olympic athlete that you will ever see hitting the streets in running shoes, but I am going to own that. I AM a runner, and I will tell you why. God asked me to be one. I have spent the better part of my life hating running. I would do almost anything to avoid it. PE in grade school was miserable every year when it came time for the one-mile timed assessment. I was always near the back of the class, puffing my way to the finish. In middle school, I loved sports but put off joining them for years because I knew I would have to run during practice. When I did finally get on a team, I was diagnosed with sports-induced asthma and needed my inhaler whenever we ran lines.
I have always hated running, but over and over again, I periodically end up feeling a need to start running again. I have never really understood it until this last year when God had a little come-to-Jesus moment with me. He let me know, gently at first, and then more assertively afterward, that I have a problem with self-control. And by problem, I mean that I don’t really have any of it, especially when it comes to taking care of this one body He has given me.
Ouch. I didn’t want to hear that. I made excuses.
“I birthed four kids! We are so busy with ministry, and it’s really hard to do workouts! I am so depressed that I can barely get out of bed in the morning sometimes. How do you expect me to exercise? You love me just for who I am right? Why is this such a big deal? It’s not like I am committing adultery or something like that!”
And like God does, He listened to my excuses and then kept telling me the truth. I am unhealthy. I am not taking care of my body the way He wants me to. I am not practicing self-control. Gluttony is a sin, and so is laziness. God has big things planned for my life, bigger than I can even imagine and probably bigger than I will even be able to realize this side of heaven, but in order to do them well, and long into the future, He needs me to be the healthiest version of myself that I can be. And it all starts with self-control.
Well, as luck would have it, God was already teaching me about self-control through the spiritual discipline of fasting, and I began to realize how inextricably linked fasting and self-control really are. Each week as I fasted, I began to realize that saying “no” to, controlling, my body was something God could empower me to do. He gave me the strength, week in and week out, to go 24 hours without eating anything. I would pray through the temptations. I would pray through the weakness. I would pray through the anger and defeat and fear, and I came out the other side amazed at what God could help me do on a very physical level. And that’s when He asked me to start running.
You better believe I prayed through my runs, too. On the first one, I had to stop many times and was overjoyed that I eventually made it an entire mile. It was probably a 20-minute mile, but I was proud, even though, no joke, I got passed by a speed walker during one of my “jogging” intervals. Once I got pretty good at that, God urged me to increase my distance and to decrease my resting breaks. Over the next few months, I worked up to two miles, and then three, with less and less walking breaks. He started having me run UP HILLS, too, and even though I didn’t think I could make it, I prayed. And He miraculously gave me the strength and perseverance to get to the top.
I eventually got up to 3.5 miles and then got scared because someone told me about a 4.5-mile loop near our apartment that was great for running. I had a feeling God was asking me to do that next, but I just didn’t know if I could. I stalled, I procrastinated, I made excuses, but eventually I worked up the courage to do even that! That loop soon became the one I did nearly every time I ran.
I look at where God brought me and just marvel. He took me, a well-over-200-pound lazy girl and gave her the strength and self-discipline to run 4.5 miles 3 to 4 times a week. It makes me cry more often than I would like to admit. This is NOT something I could have done in my own power. Even at my healthiest in college, my regular running route was 3 miles. Only God, only God could have given me the strength and energy and motivation to do that. And He did. He did because He wants me to be a worker in His kingdom for many, many years to come. I don’t know exactly what He will be having me do 50 years from now, but I know that He wants me to be alive to do it, and with enough strength and energy to do it well.
I have gone on many fad diets before. Oh, so many! And boy have I ever hit the gym in fits and spurts. But all of those other times were motivated by something much less important. Me. I wanted to lose weight, look amazing, make old boyfriends jealous, not be embarrassed to try on clothes in the fitting room, be irresistible to my husband, be skinnier than my sisters (Hey! Just being honest!). But all of those reasons were shallow and self-centered. Even the motivation to be healthy was selfish because I wanted to be healthy so that I could do all of the things I wanted to do with my life. But those reasons never held enough weight to eventually stand up against the temptations of laziness and self-indulgence. The only thing that can stand up to those in my life is the power of God Almighty, and the only motivation that I can cling to with confidence is that God Himself has asked me to be healthy, for Him, not just for me.
Does God want me to be healthy so that I can feel good? Yes! Of course! But the primary reason He wants me to be healthy is because He created me for a purpose, a purpose so important that no other person on this planet can do it exactly like I can. And I can’t do it well unless I take care of this body I do it in. No other person gets to be a mom to my kids and teach them to love and obey God the way I have the opportunity to do so. No other person gets to be a wife to my husband, encouraging him in his own ministry and loving him the way God my father-in-law desires for His son to be loved. These friends, these siblings, these neighbors, coworkers, classmates, all of these people that God has placed in my life can be uniquely loved and served by Him through ME! I cannot let anything get in the way of me doing that to the very best of my ability, least of all a lack of self-discipline to keep my body healthy.
So I run, and I will keep running, for the rest of my life, because God asked me to. Will I fail? Yes. Will I have seasons that I completely fall off the wagon and have to come back begging for mercy and motivation once again? Certainly. I am coming out of one of those right now. But God keeps calling me back. Back to a life lived the way He intended. A healthy, strong, long-lasting life of serving Him.
Now, don’t go running for the hills just yet. Past me would have gotten sweaty palms at even the thought of being asked to run by God. I am by no means saying that to be a devout Christian woman you have to start running. That would be ridiculous and rather presumptuous. However, there are a lot of ways that we can take better care of our bodies, and this series might just be God’s way of starting to talk to you about those.
Is He? Is God nudging you, or possibly even pushing you toward health for the sake of His kingdom? Is this something that has been on your heart and mind for a while now, but you just have no idea where to start? We need to be honest with ourselves ladies, because the future of the church will rest on whether we are willing to let God build in us hearts of self-control, or whether we allow Satan to continue discipling us in over-indulgence until we quite literally take ourselves out of the fight. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I do mean to take this seriously because I have had a heavy burden on my heart to speak about this for quite some time. I am right here with you. I am a classifiably obese woman struggling with gluttony on a daily basis, and also definitly struggling with laziness. It is my responsibility to speak about this, because ladies, we all need to hear it. Our ministry for the Lord is too important to throw away for the simple reason that we can’t discipline our bodies. I can’t let Satan have that win. I just can’t.
So this week I will take us through a seven-part podcast series on what it looks like to do battle against gluttony and laziness. I will confess my own sloppy health journey and share some things God has taught me along the way. I really hope you will join me. You are worth far too much to the kingdom to be taken out of the fight earlier than you need to be. And selfishly, I want us to build an accountability community so large that it would be nearly impossible to quit fighting the good fight against these sins in my life and in yours. Let’s do this!