This past Saturday I woke early to run before the normal craziness of my day began. After slipping into far more spandex than any self-respecting man should, I set off into the predawn darkness. The first couple of miles were nothing out of the ordinary, as I have traversed this particular course dozens of times over the last couple years. But things changed as I rounded a corner and was hit by the first rays of sunlight peeking over the valley rim to the east. It was about 30 degrees and the frost had settled in on the ground (and by this time, my ice crusted beard). The leaves on the trees were in full fall colors. The sky had turned a brilliant orange and here was a stillness to the world that was simply magnificent.
Before I continue, let’s back up a second. Just shy of two years ago I was in the worst shape of my life. Marriage, a new baby, and a desk job had set in, and I was beginning to realize that things weren’t going so well with my waistline or my overall health. I realized that I had to do something. I had seen others change, but doubted my ability to get fit because I had yo-yoed so many times before. But a challenge arose from a couple of guys in my small group, and I saw the opportunity to make some serious changes. I called it my “live ’til I’m 30” plan. Basically, I knew that I had to make some radical alterations to my definition of normal in terms of food and activity. I had to learn how to take care of the body I’d been given.
OK, this isn’t a blog on Runner’ World, this is Valley Life Church. What’s this got to do with God?
A lot, actually.
See, oftentimes God reveals things that we ought to change. Personality flaws, relationships, physical and mental health, doubts, fears, habits, etc. And oftentimes we know inside that God is right. But far too often in my own life, I simply don’t actually get around to changing, probably because I’m lazy. There exists in our culture a mindset of entitlement that says we shouldn’t have to do anything to change or get what we want. And we start to believe that God is nothing more than a sky fairy who waves a magic wand and POOF!, our wants and desires are at our fingertips. Instant gratification.
I think God wants us to do something, to take an action, to walk into our calling. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Faith often requires action. In this case, I had to learn to be a good steward of my health. I simply wasn’t going to wake up one day and see change. I completely changed my diet. Not all at once, but gradually and diligently. I started exercising. It was surely not a pretty sight at the beginning. I had to give up things I had become comfortable with and stretch myself beyond what I thought was possible. Change takes steady, unrelenting commitment. That dreaded D word, ‘discipline’. But God loves our obedience.
If you are like the rest of the human race, you’ve probably tried to change and failed. There are a couple points from my story that I think illuminate some key aspects.
1) Hear God – The first step is acknowledging God’s reality is bigger than our own and that we need to be on board with His vision. You won’t change until you’ve grabbed ahold of the bigger picture. Without this, the discipline to change is all based on willpower, which for most of us is better described as ‘mightpower’.
2) Make a plan – Be realistic, don’t set goals you’re bound to fall short of. Take stock of where you are currently, think of where you need to get, and plan realistic milestones.
3) Come together – I needed the challenge and accountability of other people. Don’t let pride keep you isolated.
4) Keep going – Slip-ups happen. There will always be bad days. Some days we make horrible choices. But don’t just stop!
So what’s the reward? For me, I’ll take it back to my story. That still Saturday morning was a reward. It was the beauty and peace of the dawn. It was knowing that I am doing what I can to take care of my health and live a healthy life for my family. It was knowing where I had come from, and that I was not the same person that I was two years ago. That’s worth it to me.
Written by Trevor Hutton, Valley Life Worship Leader