This past week I decided to start some dieting and working out. Simply put I am way out of shape and feel like crud often! My dilemma is always right in front of me, literally. Men tend to carry their extra weight in the belly, which in turns creates an enormous amount of pressure on the knees due to weight displacement. (I have been told by a medical professional that every pound extra in the belly creates 4 pounds of pressure on the knees.) All of this has created a difficult task for me in working out due to already having bad knees.
Therefore I decided I needed to do an initial weight loss push before I could truly pour into any working out. So I went for 3 days with only fruit and vegetable juices and then worked in a little bit of solids over the next few days (i.e. salads, a piece of chicken, etc.) although there was some discomfort, especially day 2 and 3, I was able to get a jump start on my plans to shed unwanted pounds and get back in shape. And the beauty of it has been that most of the pounds I dropped seemed to have been from the belly!
Yet now the hard part begins. With a commitment to eat right and workout, I am now faced with knowing that there will be quite a bit of discomfort heading my way. My knees are going to swell; my back is going to hurt; my stomach is going to growl; etc.
I can’t help but think of the great Hebrews 12 passage that tells us that we should “lay aside every weight”, or as the Message puts it, “Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat...”
Yet let’s face it. We all know this to be true. We all make these types of commitments, often to see them go by the wayside. We all need accountability, encouragement, a kick in the behind, etc.
My initial “kick” came yesterday. I had returned home from church and had a couple hours to work with on getting some things done at the house before going on to our next destination. So I turned on the TV for some background noise and there it was – the Ironman Competition from Hawaii. This is an amazing athletic endurance event. Ironman events consist of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2 mile marathon run. As I watched the frontrunners push their bodies to amazing limits it was mind-boggling. (The new video capabilities can zoom in and isolate muscle groups in super slow motion. You could see the incredible amount of stress their bodies could withstand.) And then to see the top athletes crossing the finish line and the joy that accompanied their victories was great - yet not necessarily all that motivating to me. It is easy to watch that sort of thing and think things like: “They probably haven’t been through 4 knee surgeries.”; “Their bodies are built for endurance work.”; etc.
Then the reality started setting in as the show switched to not the frontrunners but instead those that were overcoming major obstacles. There was the guy that had fought prostate cancer over the last couple of years; the lady that did the marathon portion in a walking boot, having just got off crutches two weeks prior due to a stress fracture; the 66-yr-old lady; the 80-yr-old man that uses these competitions as his personal health-check; the guy that had a bad wreck in the biking portion but still forced himself to walk the marathon portion; the convict/ex-drug addict that just a couple years ago was in the pen; etc. All of these folks didn’t just compete - they finished the event in the allotted time. And the most amazing thing was watching the winners of the event meeting the final contestants and congratulating them as they finished. The crowd was cheering as loudly for those at the end as they did for those at the beginning. It was a beautiful (and yes I admit tear-jerking) event.
All of that to remind us this week that life is not a competition with others. It is about faithful perseverance and endurance for the Lord. It is about continual growth – finishing the race that is set before us. The Scriptures are full of reminders of these truths:
James 1: 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Patience is often translated steadfastness or endurance)
Romans 5: 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Colossians 1: 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
James 5: 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure…
It is time for me, for us, to be part of the spiritual Ironman circuit! (and to take care of physical business as well…)