Results of the bone density test revealed what I hate to admit: I am getting older.
As a former athlete, I have always stayed active, but the sad evidence showed in the grey and white illustration: osteoporosis of the spine. Even the prefix – “osteo” – sounds old.
So my doctor and I put together a plan for the next two years: change my diet, eat more calcium-rich foods (unfortunately, this does not include chocolate), take supplements that add calcium and vitamin D and most importantly – increase resistance exercises.
Resistance exercises build strength better than simple aerobics. They force muscles to strengthen our core so that the damage is lessened and the osteoporosis is stalled. So I bought weights and I looked up resistance exercises. I learned and I exercised – it hurts, but it works.
Gradually, I felt myself growing stronger. Those spine-strengthening exercises worked to build up my bones, and I stood taller, walked straighter and enjoyed my exercise regime, because I knew it helped me.
One morning as I counted to 15 while holding my body in the plank position, I wondered about another form of exercise. Which spiritual exercises could I use to strengthen my spiritual core – my soul self? Since I will ultimately age out of this body, shouldn’t I commit to exercises that will make an eternal difference? I decided to concentrate on three areas of spiritual training.
Quality time with God: this strengthens my faith, yet finding time for a quality relationship is its own exercise in discipline.
I’ve been a Christian for 59 years, so it’s easy to become apathetic in the study and discipline of God-time.
Jesus knew how important it is to spend time with God. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). Remain. Abide. Stay with God in the pose of quietness, waiting for the divine whisper.
Spending quality time with God is more than just reading a passage, highlighting keywords and mumbling a quick prayer before I hurry off to the next appointment. Quality time includes listening for that inner voice, that nudge as God whispers, “Stop and listen. Spend time with me.”
Like my exercises, if I hold it for only two seconds, it won’t be as effective as a slow 15-second count. Quality time with God requires a quantity of time as well. It involves turning off the electronics, escaping to a solitary place and conversing with the one who loves me.
Focus on what matters to God: the lure of our world promises more material goods but results in a softer existence.
If I give in to all the stuff the world offers, the “must-haves” that scroll across the television and pop up on my computer screen, then I may grow weaker in faith and overburdened with clutter. I need to push away from earthly accumulation and focus on eternal values.
Do I really need another pair of shoes? Sure, it’s fun to have different colors for the various outfits I wear, but will spending that money on myself help me to resist and strengthen my resolve for the next commercial, the next advertisement?
Ephesians 3:16 reminds me to be “Strengthened with power through his Spirit in my inner being” – my inner spiritual core.
In resisting the pull of the world and its trinkets, I become more pure of heart and my inner being grows more powerful with uncluttered faith. Owning things is not bad in itself, but I need to stay focused on God to insure that I do not become enslaved by my desires.
Rest or Sabbath: part of the discipline of exercise, and the discipline of spiritual growth, involves resting, allowing ourselves time to energize and focus.
Rest is time to enjoy my Sabbath and just be in the moment. Rest involves moments of joy: looking at a sunset, scrunching through autumn leaves or making a snow angel in the winter fluff. After Creation in Genesis, God created a Sabbath day, a day of rest for us and modeled how we are to honor it. He knew that we needed structured time to rest, reflect and recharge.
“Be still and know that I am God,” the sons of Korah sang in what we know as Psalm 46:10. How can I truly know God if I don’t become still and learn to recognize his voice?
Rest strengthens me for the onslaught of life and enables me to meet the next day with fervor and hope. It teaches me about the important things of life, some of the things I tend to ignore in the rush of daily living.
When I reposition my schedule and my personal world for rest, I grow soul strength in my inner core. I then move forward after rest, to make a difference in others’ lives.
Resistance exercises have helped to strengthen my frame and hopefully, will keep me well-balanced, avoiding falls and able to serve God longer in my physical shell. So I’ll keep working at it and hold that dreaded plank for even more seconds each day.
I’ll also learn more resistance exercises of the soul that will produce an eternal effect in my inner being and ultimately, in my influence in this present world.
Check out an earlier post by RJ here.