I've joined a gym. God help me. The rates were very reasonable, it's nearby, the hype-factor was low and--here's what cinched it--when my wife and I took the tour there were lots of old people working out. I also have a "personal trainer". His name is Theo (I kid you not). He seems to enjoy inflicting pain, or rather, watching me inflict pain upon myself. "How you doin'? Ok? Good, then let's just bump this up another ten pounds."
I joined the gym for all the typical "I'm 45 and it's only going to get worse from here" reasons, but especially because I've gotten fat. I don't understand how it has happened, but I look like my friend's dads looked when I was in high school (and I swore I would never grow up to look like that!).
A year ago or so I was talking to a friend who is a Nutritionist (or Dietician... what's the difference?) and poured out my frustration about my expanding middle. "It's not like I sit around pounding down Ho-Ho's and Bugles.", I said. "I actually eat less than my wife (who weighs 110 pounds)." "Hmmm... What kind of exercise do you do?", my Nutritionist/Dietician friend asked. "Exercise?" "Duh!", she sensitively blurted out, "you can't lose the fat if you don't exercise."
This was a new concept to me. I've always been healthy, I like to walk, but I've never actually exercised before. I've since learned that being a physically healthy person entails both exercise and good nutrition.
There is a spiritual lesson in all of this. Western Christianity is all about nutrition. We have a cornucopia of books, teachings, sermons, conferences and "life-changing seminars" arrayed before us like the buffet table on a cruise ship. We have good, solid hearty food from N.T. Wright and we have the TBN junk food table. We have come to believe that following Jesus means consuming information. Our churches are shaped like auditoriums, designed for the performance of ministry by the professional ministers, while we spectators take it all in (and take notes).
Following Jesus is not about acquiring and consuming information though. It's about following Jesus. That means action! Exercise! The twefth step of AA (I think the church could learn a lot from AA) is this: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." My friends in AA have told me that it's when an alcoholic takes responsibility to help other alcoholics that their growth and healing really begins to occur.
I used to wait and pray for God to reveal my ministry to me. Then one day someone told me, "Why don't you just go to where God is already working and join in?" "Where would that be?", I asked. "Wherever there are hurting and marginalized people." I never expected to be doing jail ministry. I don't like jails. But that was the thing before me where there were hurting people. Now I love it.
The encouraging thing about getting off our butts, putting down the Benny Hinn Ho-ho's and exercising our faith is that we have a great personal trainer. His name is Theo.