I am training for a triathlon this summer, and it is hard work, my friends. I am not a natural runner, so I’ve been training for the run portion since October. OCTOBER, PEOPLE. Those 6 miles of running after the 1-mile swim and 24-mile bike just might be the death of me, I think. But I’m doing it anyway because I feel like I need some practice in discipline.
As I sat in church this last Sunday, the ache from my swim still fresh in my mind, Greg, our senior pastor at Willowdale Chapel, continued his series about pursuing our own spiritual disciplines. In light of my recent triathlon aspirations, his following question stopped me in my tracks:
“What’s the story that defines who you are and shapes where you are going?”
So earlier, when I said this triathlon training is a practice in discipline ... it’s not that that isn’t true; it’s just not the whole truth.
Let me be transparent. While discipline is the end game, I’ve realized it’s mostly about the story I’ve let define me for way too long.
I have spent the last 4 years since the birth of my second daughter trying to lose the same 60 pounds I’d already lost after the birth of my first daughter. And in reality, I’ve spent basically my entire life on a diet of some kind. If I wasn’t focused 24/7 on the goal of losing weight, I could just look at a piece of chocolate cake and gain back 10 pounds. To say it’s been emotionally exhausting would be a vast understatement. When you’ve spent your life as a woman letting the number on the scale determine your self worth, it makes every workout and every healthy meal choice a mental battle.
Take all these things, combined with our Instagrams and social media feeds flooded with weight loss tips and fitness routines, and you can begin to understand why my story has been so defined by the peaks and pitfalls of being overweight. It sucks.
What struck me most though, during this moment of reflection in church, was when Greg said that we are, at our very core, lovers. We were created by God to love Him. But then he said this:
“So the question is not if we will love, but what we will love.”
Tim Keller always says that you can ascertain what you idolize by your thought life. Where does your mind naturally go? And if I’m honest, it goes to my weight, my fitness goals, my eating habits, my next workout. The reality of this truth is awful. My mood, my energy, basically everything in this season, is so deeply affected by how well I believe I am doing in this area.
Guys, this is not the heart of God. I’ve been a believer my whole life, and I know this in my head, but I do not always believe this in my heart. Adam and Eve walked through the garden with God naked. NAKED, YOU GUYS. I can barely wear shorts without worrying about my cellulite, so this is bananas. They were so free and at ease in their form that they had no concern for themselves. Before Satan and sin entered the picture, they completely trusted in God, who He was, and how He had created them perfectly. Eve did not worry if her breasts were saggy or her arms were toned enough, she just was.
What if this was actually the story that shaped where we were going? What if this is what I meditated on? What if while I trained, I wasn’t watching the number of calories I burned, but praising God for the breath in my lungs? What if instead of cursing myself when I ate the wrong thing, I instead looked to his grace for me? My favorite verse, which ironically I hide from so often when I’m feeling any sense of shame in this, is from Song of Solomon, chapter 4, verse 7:
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”
No flaw. No. flaw. He looks at me, covered by the blood of Jesus, created exactly as He intended and loves me.
If you’ve forgotten this, if you’ve gotten distracted this year by anything in this world that wants to steal your affection from Him, I urge you to stop and repent. Greg said that we train towards our affections. Man, I want my training to be towards Christ, my affections to be on Him, and nothing else.
If you--like me--have lost sight of your first love, I encourage you to take the summer to find Him again.