The year 2012 was a tough one for my overall health and physical fitness. In essence: I really let myself go. With all the transitions (new job, new home, new church, new schools, etc.), I abandoned any real fitness regime and lost any dietary discipline as well.
A few times during the year, I resolved to start running regularly. But what would begin as a weekly commitment was soon exposed as a commitment made weakly. But this all changed when we flipped the calendars to 2013.
With the New Year I resolved to improve my health. This began with finding a new doctor in my new hometown. After I finally made an appointment, what began like any other resolution was bolstered by the data disclosed by the first doctor’s visit: cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, blood sugar—all demanded to know: “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU MAN?!”
So I doubled down on my resolution. And then some colleagues brought up the Tough Mudder, a team-oriented challenge requiring some measure of fitness. What a great opportunity to get back in shape! So I bought in.
And finally, Lent. I know that my body is a temple of God, and so as part of my Lenten preparations, I committed myself to undertaking certain exercise- and diet-related activities to improve my health.
Of course, it helped that we had planned a family vacation for March. Our destination: Mexico! I know one of my jobs as Dad is to humiliate our kids, but there are limits! Knowing that I was going to expose parts of myself in a bathing suit—parts that hadn’t seen the sun since early in the Michigan autumn—I set a goal for myself: reduce my weight to … well, to nunya. As in, “that’s nunya business!” But I set a goal.
It wasn’t easy, but the thing that made it more bearable was a Lenten attitude of fasting, of self-denial. So, when I was hungry, I reminded myself to fast for love of God. When I didn’t want to run on the treadmill—preferring a more horizontal position—I again reminded myself of God’s love.
I have to admit: I have been pleased with the results. I pretty much met my goal well before our vacation. I now can wear work slacks that until recently I had abandoned (I thought they were made of shrinking material, a sort of planned obsolescence foisted on consumers by the fabric conglomerate). I even caught myself looking a little longer in the mirror.
I was getting a bit smug. Until last night.
Last night, I had a strange dream. In it, I was looking pretty buff. Sort of like a Ken doll—you know, Barbie’s former beau. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I am aware of their breakup).
In fact, I looked too much like Ken. Like I had detachable limbs. I had a tan line that corresponded to the body parts of a Ken doll. My torso was bronzed, but my legs (up to my hips much in the same shape as a Ken doll) were white, as were my arms.
I was amused by the dream—until I realized what it meant. It dawned on me that I had been drawn into a sense of superficiality. What began as a healthy, holy endeavor—physical fitness to take care of the temple—became idolatry.
Remember a recent pop hit, Barbie Girl by Aqua? One annoying verse goes: “I’m a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie world. Life in plastic. It’s fantastic.”
In my effort to attain a semblance of fitness, I became plastic—shallow. I lost sight of my purpose (health) and latched onto another (self).
Wow! I don’t ever remember God speaking to me in a dream before! I was reminded that even things that are normally positive can be abused.
I am grateful for this nudge from God: to refocus my efforts on how best to serve Him. That doesn’t necessarily change what I do as much as why I do it. I am reminded that I should do everything for His glory. And in humble gratitude.
Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end.