The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
When my husband and I were dating, we were continually putting each other through a rigorous vetting process: were we really as compatible as we seemed? My now husband was determined to discover if we could in fact enter into covenant; so he picked me up one morning and drove me several hundred miles north to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota for a 2 and a half day, 30ish mile loop in a canoe.
The BWCA is not for the faint of heart: a strong body, mind and willing demeanor are required to haul the self, everything needed to survive and a canoe through the wilderness. I was thrilled at the prospect.
I am fairly certain I had a smile on my face much of the exhausting, sweaty, mosquito infested experience. My favorite moments occurred during the portages. This is the joyful endeavor of carrying the canoe on your shoulders and packs on your back between lakes. It can be astonishingly brutal.
Heath would lead the way, his head barely visible beneath the canoe atop his shoulders, and I would struggle with a hundred pound pack, life jackets and paddles (he carried the heavier pack). As we would trek over the muddy paths, laced with knotty root systems I would recite to Jesus a prayer echoing the Scripture above: Dear Father, you are our strength, please make our feet like that of a deer, protect us in our path, keep us sure footed that we may make it to the next lake without any incident. Breaking an ankle 20 or so miles away from the nearest viable access point seemed terrifying to me and so I covered the two of us in prayer as we huffed and puffed through the thickest of foliage.
The Lord is my strength.
I have used a version of this prayer a thousand times, during hundreds of workouts, runs, biking treks, hikes and daunting certifications.
Without Him, what is my body? There are myriads of examples of God’s people living physically, whether wandering in the wilderness, building temple walls, battling enemies or walking to the ends of the earth to share the Gospel. What there is little of is experiential sitting around.
We are an increasingly sedentary culture.
Our movement and freedom in our God given bodies is becoming more limited, more painful, tight, still and restricted as we drift away from how and who God designed us to live and be.
What I have told hundreds of clients who come to me seeking help in health and wellness is that there are very few people who actually know how good their bodies are meant to feel. We are so used to inflammation, poor physical condition, and carrying around extra weight, we have become complacent because good health isn’t something we know well enough to want.
Moving the body is fundamental for overall health.
Exercise is critical for quality of life.
No one naturally drifts towards health in our society. Like much else, we have to fight against culture.
In order to fully participate in the calling on our lives, we need to utilize the physical body.
Where to start, what would this look like practically?
How about go for a walk?
Walking lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone necessary for survival situations but due to our lifestyle choices, our bodies are overrun by this hormone which is the cause of mood swings, anxiety, sleep disorders, fertility issues, weight gain and high blood pressure.
Incorporate yoga, mobility or a stretching sequence into your routine. There are thousands of free yoga videos available online; even just 10-15 minutes in the morning will do your joints, muscles, tendons, brain and heart a world of good.
Muscle is incredibly active and requires tons of calories just to rest. If you want to change your metabolic rate, you HAVE to lift weights. Lifting weights is crucial for bone density and is necessary for the reduction in cortisol levels in the body. Pick up heavy things and set them down again one to two times a week in order to forge a strong body.
Perform high intensity exercise at least 2-4 times a week (depending on fitness level and intensity level). High intensity exercise is critical for stress reduction, improved sleep patterns, hormonal balance, fat loss, cardiac and pulmonary health, improved mood and anxiety disorders and increases resilience to a plethora of health related issues.
Find community to do these things with. ALL of the research reveals that those who surround themselves with others on the same health related pursuit are much more likely to stick to exercise and garner fat loss and other health related results. Conversely, when we go it alone, don’t enlist friends or family to undertake a healthier lifestyle with us, failure is imminent.
The thing is, we have heard all of this before and sometimes just need a kick in the rear to get going.
What would that look like on a weekly basis?
It will always require sacrifice and change. In order to add to our life, something else has to fall away and typically this involves adjusting our evening patterns to support new morning behavior.
A typical weekly schedule could look like this:
M-F 5:30 am wake up and stretch/practice yoga for 10-15 minutes
MWF 5:45-6:30 am High intensity exercise
TTh 5:45-6:30 am lift weights
M-F post dinner, brisk 30 minute walk
God is very concerned about the life you live in your flesh: Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
When we take our minds off our own discomfort during strenuous activity or exercise and focus on Him and the way He fashioned our bodies to move in health, we switch from a should, to a get to mentality.
This is not forged over night and in fact requires a lot of renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) and corrective thought processes, as stepping away from the couch, the desk and the car require a commitment to something less comfortable, less convenient and less easy. The world promises easy, but God prepares us for the difficult.
In order to embrace a life of health, we have to rescript the narrative in our heads when it comes to taking care of the body: yes, it is hard but the Lord is your strength. Yes, it takes time but investing now offers more life later. Yes, it takes discipline but we are created for discipleship.
In order to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, one must throw the self fully into the task of becoming a warrior for the Lord in body and mind.
The human body is an incredible machine, one that craves movement: In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Too often we allow our complacent comfort and temporary pleasure to take over the call to serve and live for the Lord, this happens in all avenues of our life. It is difficult to be on mission when our bodies are broken and this brokenness is a prison we hide in.
There is freedom in moving the body and we are called to freedom.