I started an exercise program yesterday morning. But I didn’t put on sweatpants and Nikes. I didn’t hop in my car and drive to a gym, park, or mall either. Instead, I walked a relative’s driveway, back and forth, for fifty minutes in comfortable clothes and shoes. Twice I had to stop for rain. This morning, I walked up and down a hill in my backyard for twenty minutes. It was cooler, but I enjoyed the sunshine and geese flying overhead.
Is this program glamorous? No. It shouldn’t be. Instead of buying special items, I wore what I owned. Instead of waiting for the right conditions – time, place, and weather – I started where I was. I didn’t wait for the ball to drop in Times Square either, even though losing fifty pounds is my New Year’s resolution. I’m still grieved that I wasted years waiting for the right conditions when all I had to do was walk. So I’m repenting of laziness and of overlooking a simple solution.
Why did I start exercising in the first place? Besides being an overweight sleepyhead with little energy, I had a poor self-image. I used desires for love and fame to validate my existence. The same went for other people’s opinions of me, i.e. social media likes and comments. But late last week, I lifted up my head and decided that I was tired of being pathetic. I deserve more, I’m worth more, and I’m capable of more. So I intend to stop eating junk food, both physical and spiritual. I also intend to stop receiving junk treatment from other people, so I’m going to clean up or avoid toxic relationships. Imago dei – created in the image of God – means that I’m not junk. So I don’t have to appear or be treated like it!
What produced this ‘conversion’? Maybe it was the miracle of Christmas. Maybe it was prayer. Maybe it was the spiritual effect of reading books like Kyle Idleman’s Gods at War (2013) and Francis Chan’s Forgotten God (2009). I don’t know the cause, but I’m grateful. I was a hypocrite for too long, preaching imago dei but living like junk, so I apologize.
What does all this have to do with personal exercise? Why should the body I see in the mirror matter to anyone? Why does it matter what I eat and drink either? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that life is “more than food” and the body “more than clothing” (Matthew 6:25). So we should seek the kingdom of God first (6:33). Likewise, the apostle Paul told young Timothy that “bodily exercise profits a little” (1 Timothy 4:8). Food is “for the stomach” and vice-versa, “but God will destroy both” one day (1 Corinthians 6:13). Since the body is “for the Lord” and “the Lord for the body,” all that really matters is sin – not what we consume (6:13).
Has this flawed reasoning produced gluttony in Western churches, the one sin we think we can live with? Consuming more than we need turns a blessing into a curse. Yes, God will destroy food and bodies on the Day of Judgment. Until then, what we eat and drink here on earth matters. If we consume either too little or too much, then we don’t have the energy necessary to do God’s will. He’s given us physical bodies so that we can perform our daily tasks – families, jobs, the Great Commission, etc. So we must be good stewards of our bodies. We call brushing our teeth, washing our faces and hair, and wearing clean clothes good hygiene. Why aren’t nutrition and exercise considered good hygiene as well?
If you aren’t exercising, then start today. You don’t need to buy new clothes and shoes, join a gym, or hire a personal trainer. Just start where you are. [If you live in an unsafe neighborhood, then find a safe place.] Walk 10-20 minutes per day for a week or two. Then increase that time to 30-45 minutes or an hour. You don’t need to cut food groups or buy only organic products either. Just eat less refined foods and less sugar, and don’t consume alcohol or carbonated drinks. I intend to stop eating pies, cakes, candy, chips, and other “junk” food. I also intend to drink only water, milk, and juice. I want to desire what is good for me and will produce sound health, so that I have energy to face each day.
You and I are imago dei, not junk. So let’s stop consuming junk – food, drink, thoughts, and desires – and start moving! Only then will we have the energy needed to do God’s will. The Great Commission can’t wait another day.
 New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted