Although it is a rather unflattering fact to admit, I must confess that I’d never stepped foot in Franciscan’s weight room until this semester, and I’m a second-semester junior.
After years of sluggishness and bad eating habits, something finally clicked in my mind, urging me toward spending time at the gym.
I’ve been reflecting on my future as a man who may one day have a family to take care of. Hypothetically, what would I do if my future family and I were involved in a life-threatening situation?
Perhaps, for example, we were trapped in a burning building, and the only way for us to escape would be if I cleared our way by muscling through flaming rubble. Another example is if one of my children was drowning in a raging river, and I needed to swim him or her to shore.
The essential question: given my physical state now, would I have the strength to protect those I love in an emergency situation?
It’s a limited, and admittedly worldly, way to look at fitness, but it has sparked a flame of concern in my heart that was absent beforehand. I am starting to see fitness as an obligation rather than pure vanity.
Granted, I believe God can grant supernatural strength to us when he sees fit in crisis situations; however, this does not exempt me from taking care of myself. Faith in God is no excuse for me to let my body rot.
I should want to take care of the aspect of creation God specifically designed for me. My body is a heartfelt gift of God as are the beautiful people around me. I must take care of the body God has given me and, in doing so, make myself fit to serve my brothers and sisters on earth.
Calling one’s body a “temple of the Holy Spirit” is cliché and disregarded nowadays, which is a shame, considering it is scripturally rooted in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and a profound reality to meditate upon.
A term that I’d never heard until recently is “body awareness,” which implies knowledge and understanding of how one’s body acts and reacts. Without my knowing, I’ve been mentally invested in fostering my own body awareness for the past year or two.
For me, practicing body awareness has meant challenging myself physically both in the weight room and on the track. It has meant learning how different foods and different amounts of sleep affect me through research and trial and error.
I believe God built certain bodily responses into the human person as a natural warning signal about what we consume. Excessive chocolate causes acne, coffee worsens anxiety, soda heightens chances of tooth decay, and the adverse effects of added sugar and fatty food intake are too various to mention.
My body is not a garbage disposal, though I treat it as such on occasion. What an unthinkable shame it is for the Body of Christ to enter into the physically neglected body of a communicant, one who prepared the way for his Savior by downing nothing but a Red Bull before Mass.
Relishing in bad health practices feels just plain terrible — everyone knows that, though we might not like to admit it.
I say this next part with absolute sincerity: exercising feels good. Being healthy is intended by our design, which is why it is pleasurable and why it causes one to like himself more. Why else would God have created runner’s high if not to scream in our faces, “This is what you are meant to do!”
Sainthood is not something we are allowed to neglect. Given the choice of Heaven or Hell, there is one correct and one incorrect answer. I say that fitness and loving maintenance of the body, to the extent that we can accomplish it, are necessary.
I have seen my unvirtuous health habits for what they truly are. Every day is a new challenge for me to turn away from the path my sinful nature wants me to take. I still have so far to go and I have only scratched the surface.
I mentioned that last part in order to emphasize that I am a sinner and that my goal is not to talk down to anyone. All I want is to present my findings and to hopefully spark in others a flame of body awareness that the Holy Spirit can kindle into a burning inferno.
Put good in, get good out. As it’s put in chapter one, verse 12 of the Epistle of James: “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.”