A spiritual workout

Every store is advertising a sale on swimsuits and every women’s magazine has a cover story explaining the many ways we can diet and exercise in order to look good in those swimsuits.  It is time to fill our fridges with eight varieties of lettuce, fill our freezers with skinless chicken breasts and fill our trashcans with crackers, cookies, breads and candy.  I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving!

The pressure is on!  Or is it?  Take a truthful look at the store ads.  Is anyone modeling the swimsuit a mother of two children who has seen her 30th birthday?  Do the diet and exercise plans make promises that people with work schedules, children’s schedules and a social life can truly follow?  Is there any amount of exercise, any diet or any percentage of spandex that can make us look like the 17-year-old in the swimsuit ad?

Kendall and Kylie Jenner are known for their high sense of fashion but were booed this weekend at the Billboard Awards.  They were introducing Kanye West, who is married to their sister.  Apparently Kanye West’s song was bleeped out by the network so many times that no one was able to really enjoy his performance.  Or for some like me, it probably made his performance more tolerable.

The culture sets high standards on the way we look and often sets low standards for the character and values we should maintain.  How do we live in this world and not be “of it?”  

We all know that we need to eat healthy foods and exercise if we want to keep our bodies strong.  We also know that no matter how hard we exercise or how many times we forego the dessert, we will still age and grow weaker.  We can spend a fortune on a purse or a pair of shoes, but those are going to grow old and out of fashion too.  But there is good news for this ever-changing, ever-aging world.

We were not made for, nor saved for this temporal world.  God’s plan is for us to live eternally in heaven.  God set the aging process into motion when Adam and Eve were placed outside the garden walls.  Our aging is one way God shows us that we should want the perfection found on the other side of this life and encourages us to be focused on heavenly priorities.

I just spent a few days with a wonderful group of women on a spiritual retreat.  We talked about a lot of things, but mostly we talked about God and his plan for our lives.  I took a long walk by myself one afternoon just for the purpose of being alone with God.  It was a blessing to spend time in his creation and remember all that he has done to save my soul.

One of the verses we looked at was Isaiah 30:15:  “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling.”  The time away caused me to remember that my soul is the most important part of who I am.  The magazines are full of exercise plans for our bodies, but it is just as important – actually, more important – to take care of our souls.  

A spiritual workout is the opposite of a physical workout.  To exercise our souls we must rest and remove our thoughts from the priorities of this world in order to focus on the eternal priorities of God.  “In quietness and trust” we find spiritual strength.  But Isaiah would ask all of us, “Are we willing?”

Here is the best news about spiritual workouts.  Paul said, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).  There isn’t enough spandex in a bathing suit or a healthy enough diet to make me look like the 17-year-old in the ad.  On the other hand, the older I get, the stronger and healthier my soul grows.  And eternity is going to be one great banquet after another.  

Now, I hope that salad will taste a little better and when you are standing in the dressing room trying on bathing suits – you will look in the mirror and think, “Not bad, not bad at all!”

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