It’s summer. We wear bathing suits now. Is it just me or is everyone on their fitness kick, with salad and spandex being all the rage?? Before you leave, cool your jets I’m not trash-talking it I’m just noticing the annual fit-fest and do see that theme in other blogs/various internet+real life encounters. It’s for sure no bad deal to be living healthfully, and we should be striving to be good caretakers of our bodies. Lot’s of chatter and pep about it now so here’s my two cents on the fitness-excersise matter. Not that you asked, but I guess that’s why this isn’t mandatory reading for you! Hope you stay though, sorry for my sass I’ll cut it out.
I’m giving my two cents because I feel pretty strongly about this piece of our lives and culture in regards to how it distorts our view of what is good and virtuous vs. what is actually true. Also, I feel like I should give you a little warning/disclaimer here that yes, this post is going to get a little personal and if you don’t care to read on–all the more power to ya, it won’t hurt my feelings if you think I over-shared here or get weirded out by what I say. Sorry, hope you have a better day after this then.
For starters, blogging about fitness and my exercise routine is one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve written about yet for a lot of reasons so please bear with me. When I read other bloggers fitness posts they usually give a general outline of what their routine is. So here’s mine: I work out or go for some form of cardio everyday of the week, occasionally multiple times a day, minus 1 rest day which I spend feeling anxious and guilty for not working out.
And it’s miserable.
Last Sunday I came home from church all disgruntled for a myriad of reasons all thrown together and frosted with thick self-disgust (this is the norm far more often than I want to admit). So I continued throughout the day doing errands, and such. It was one of the days where I hung on the invisible bars of self-confinement in defeated bitterness and cynicism. The impulse to scream gripped me and wouldn’t let up. When was the last time you really screamed? Not a loud yell, but the scream that claws out your vocal chords and leaves your neck hollow and raw and torn but it’s the feeling of defeated relief, like you can give no more to it because that scream took something out of you. I did not scream (luckily, that would’ve been a little more than alarming for the neighbors!) but my body wouldn’t let me do nothing. The choice was collapsing in frustration or giving in to get the only relief I knew would work temporarily, by going for a ****** run. I laced up the sneakers and bolted out the door. My feet carrying my heavy body in a fury at this obsession, which I know so obviously plays the tune of every idol infecting my heart. My heart pounding, my throat and breath hurting, but if I stop I know I’ll scream. I’m not running for something anymore–I’m running from. I sprinted as fast as the muscle fibers in my body could take and then some as if to escape them altogether. (*note when I say sprint, it’s all relative. My sprint is probably not what you’d see as a sprint! ALSO this is important–I am in no way trash-talking exercise or the value of taking care of your body and promoting good health. I’m saying I (among many) have an unfortunate disturbing view of said virtue. I wish I could be content with striving for health but if I’m being honest with you, in this mindset I’d take surface beauty over health any day. And to write that is embarrassing but it’s like a band-aid getting ripped off ya know? Just admit it and realize it’s a problem that needs confrontation. Do you have these kinds of band-aid problems?)
I hate serving that which I do know holds me hostage-we all do it. why do we keep coming back to our vice or fallback lie? So many of us, myself included, live in fear and shame of being discovered as the disgrace of God’s handiwork that we see in the mirror. Sure, God created us in his image but to my twisted perception I feel like I’ve taken his painting and colored over it with white-out.
One of my favorite album titles is Andrew Bird’s “Hands of Glory”. The cover art of his combination album shows a young woman standing in some blue-faded out dustbowl-era scene, head turned down holding her face in her hands. She seems a vision of shame and exhausted effort to hide. Her posture embodies my own attitude towards my physical self; Ashamed.
This is not fitness, no, fitness includes body and soul. This is once again, an inherently good thing (our physicality) that has become another victim of our human perversion to manipulate all within our reach to reach something which we believe will satisfy us but never really does because the only thing we are designed to be satisfied with is not found through manipulation of our body and resources.
Why the “rest” day of total guilt? Why is one workout not enough? Why isn’t any amount of exercise really “enough”? How can the idea of people seeing my face sometime make so upset I feel apologetic walking up to a friend? Why can’t we stop at being bodily caretakers and instead cling to the idea that how you look is directly linked to what you receive…?
But wait, it is.
It’s no news that we live in a culture that values physical beauty and attractiveness. I’m not saying it’s bad to appreciate beauty but that we have a collectively perverted view of what is beautiful in a human. In this world, beauty (physical) is often awarded with higher social standing, quicker job promotion, among other advantages. When we find the desires for these things and we see people who have them (we covet what they have) we can’t help but notice the differences between us and them. All the way down to how our clothes fit. Somehow we can make those differences the reason for them having and us not.
I’m not a fan of playing the media-body-image blame game by saying people have body shame as a result of what’s on our screens. Sure, that plays a role in propagating the belief of what is to be aspired to, but I have a hunch that our personal desire to “hide” our bodies or become addicted to “improving” them connects to our social observations. What do you want in your life? Do you know someone who has it? What do they have that you don’t? How can you achieve whatever that is/is it achievable? So logic would tell you that the way to aquire the object of your desire (sense of control over how people see you and therefore how you think you will be treated as a result, esteem, approval from people, love and affection from family/friends) is to “make yourself” fit the necessary mold.
What you look like is directly linked to what you receive in this fallen world. Filled with fallen people, counting myself in there, who have been conditioned to value counterfeit assurances, goals and desires above what is authentic and worthy of us “molding” too–the only mold we were made to be, images of God’s character and love for humanity on earth. To be beings emulating true love:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Love without fear of not being enough. Fear that will lead to the punishment of that being the cage of your life. Love is handicapped by fear of being “discovered as a disgrace” because true love knows we are indeed fallen from grace, yet receive it in an endless supply. It’s not so much our bodies that need the work, but our soul is what needs to strive for “fitness” and I believe that soul-fitness has it’s foundations in to whom the soul relies on. If it is yourself, then your fitness is unstable and can fluctuate at anytime, meaning you’ll be subject to being entirely crushed under your own standards eventually. When you fail yourself (you don’t loose those 10lbs, your face is still your face, you don’t find “enlightenment” because life is becoming increasingly more uncertain, the affection you crave is still non-existant) it will indicate you are not enough and that living in fear of personal failure is the only way to find relief from fear. This is tragic, and how too many of us live (yours truly!) but the other option–to have soul-reliance on God is handing over to Him your “enough”. He makes you more than that through the grace of his unmerited favor on the only piece of creation to which he bestowed freedom to fall and therefore the ability to earn that fall’s consequences of permanent distance between the only real craving of that soul-it’s Maker-hence the deepest way a soul can be destroyed. When the Maker does the unmerited and restores the souls to their original glory that is the root of authentic true beauty. Beauty to be admired and celebrated. This beauty is a symptom of the grace-filled soul, the soul freed from disgrace. This soul that has tasted grace illuminates the body it inhabits. That person values and strives for being the embodiment of true love as it is written this way:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see f ace to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 12
They have been touched by the hand of glory through grace.
Yes this is a long post, and thanks if you made it this far and sorry if anything I’ve said isn’t going over so well with you but I’m grateful to be able to write truth while acknowledging my failure to live it. I’m also sorry for saying “I” and “my” so much in this post! I want to talk about you too but I didn’t want to make too many assumptions of what you might struggle with. However, I am in no way thinking you don’t face self-worth conflict to one level or another. Maybe you struggle in very similar ways or perhaps your trust is rooted in your own control over another area. Either way, I hope you find rest in assurance of what you are (favored by God, his own image) over what you are not. You and I will be everything we were meant to be, and the world, though not right now, will be made new and right–just like us.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Now we get to watch the fireworks…!!!!! Happy 4th Everybody