Yes, I Lost 70 Pounds, But What Shape is My Spirit In?
I have photos I'm not proud of; they don't make their way to social media. But, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are mine:
The photo on the left was a wake up call. I didn't think I looked that bad. When I saw myself, I felt embarrassed. Some people gain weight through conditions they can't control. I gain weight when I give in to laziness. How I looked was one thing, but what I knew it represented in my own life was even more mortifying.
Losing 70 pounds impacted almost every part of my daily life. I still feel the urge to be physically lazy, but I don't let that urge win. The problem is, I also have a tendency towards spiritual laziness. You won't catch me on a 5 am prayer walk or at a Saturday night service project, even thought I know my spirit longs for this kind of healthy activity.
I wonder how many extra pounds my spirit has been lugging around? I'm convinced that getting my spirit into a healthy routine impacts my life at least as much as caring for my physical body has. I can't show you photos of the changes, but my children can feel it. My friends notice the difference. My husband thanks me, and my life simply begins to work the way it should when I prioritize my spiritual health by spending time listening to God.
My five-year-old daughter saw these before-and-after photos as I put them together, and she said, "Mommy, that was you?!?" She couldn't believe it! I want my spirit to undergo such a shocking transformation that the selfishness I tolerate in myself now feels unbelievable to the people who will know me a year from now.
Physically, we all have our red flags. Our jeans are too tight. We'd rather wear leggings. Our favorite flannel looks better unbuttoned. We dodge the mirror and side-step the scale. These subtle reminders scream at me, "It's time to go back to the gym!" I know that when I spend at least half an hour exercising, I will sleep better that night, have a smaller appetite for the rest of the day, plus I will feel a boost of energy and creativity that will make every other task in my day feel easier to accomplish. I am so thankful for the benefits that I gain from exercising, that once I'm in my routine of going to the gym each day, it becomes a solid priority. I don't want to skip it. I look forward to it.
Regardless of everything I know about why I love exercising and how much I benefit from it, as soon as I get out of my routine, I dread going back to the gym. Yes, being physically fit makes my life way easier than being out of shape, but today, going to the gym is much harder than laying in my bed watching tv shows. I'm sure most of you know the feeling.
The same is true about taking the time to listen to the Holy Spirit. I know that once I'm taking time to listen to God every day, my life gets easier. I feel God's guidance, comfort, and encouragement in little ways throughout my day that add up to benefits that I don't want to miss.
When I'm in the habit of listening to God, my life becomes an adventure. I feel missional and empowered. Even the little tasks that I typically dread begin to feel meaningful as I recognize that I'm partnering with God in my life. If intentionally spending time listening to God each day adds so much to my life, why don't I do it all the time? For the same reason I don't go to the gym all the time. Something comes up that shifts my routine, and I get out of the habit.
Once I'm not prioritizing spending time with God, it feels easier, in the moment, to just do my own thing. Listening to God is hard like going to the gym is hard; finding the motivation to persevere at the beginning is the hardest part. Continuing in your routine when the changes that are happening are so slow you can't see them can feel discouraging. But, the more you show up with God, the easier it gets. As you continue, your life changes in subtle ways that are easy to see over many months, even though it feels like nothing is happening in the days or weeks.
Yes, it is easier today to live your life on your own than to take the time to seek God. But longterm, it is easier to be in an active relationship with God where you feel Him lead you than it is to live for yourself. Just like today it is easier to sit on my couch and relax than get up, find my gym clothes, and go run on a treadmill, but longterm, it is so much easier to do everything else in my life now that I'm not obese. I'm not perfect. After too much travel, I struggle to get back to the gym. But, I don't worry that I'll slip back into my old lifestyle because I have so many things to alert me when I've started to let my physical health slip.
I want to learn to pay attention to those spiritual red flags too. The bible says that the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are the qualities that will gradually develop in my life, when I spend time focusing on the health of my spirit by spending more time with the Holy Spirit. When I notice myself being impatient, it should be a reminder to me to spend more time with God. When I'm rough with myself or others instead of being gentle and kind it should upset me like wearing jeans that are suddenly too tight would. It should remind me that I'm not living the way I want to live and it's time to re-prioritize.
Share with us in the comments what you do to exercise your spirit. If listening to God feels impossible for you, read this post, "But, What If I Can't Hear From God?"
Amy Noel Green is a conference and keynote speaker. She is a writer and game designer who has received international press attention for her work on the video game about her son Joel, That Dragon, Cancer.