I had a chat with a well-loved colleague of mine a while back. She had been asked by her personal trainer (yep – her personal trainer. Apparently people actually have those) to fast on a Friday morning. But she was in a quandary. Being the holy and devout person that she was, she was already a regular faster on a Friday morning – but in the more traditional spiritual, seeking God kind of way.
Her dilemma was this: can this be a spiritual fast and a keep-the-personal-trainer-happy-fast all at the same time? We sat and mulled this one over. On the one hand it is a good thing for us to fast, as Jesus expected we would do it (link to previous article), and fairly regularly at that (perhaps even habitually). And it’s a good discipline for many reasons, with many additional benefits (health being one of them). At the time I took the ‘Why not! God’ll love it!’ kind of approach. But she wasn’t so sure (again – she is a holier woman than I), and raised a very valid point: we are all too keen to fast when our waist lines are in question, but not when it is purely out of love for God or to draw near to Him. We all have our excuses – ‘I get headaches!’; ‘I’ve got too many important meetings!’; ‘the kids are a bit too demanding for that!’ – but if the prospect of losing a few pounds is on the cards, we are on board in the flashest of flashes.
How devastatingly true this is. We will beat our bodies into submission, pounding the tracks and making all sorts of ridiculous poses to tense some muscles – but helping to put out the chairs on a Sunday morning? Nah. We will get up at 3.30am to run 75 miles around the park, sweating out the calories, but getting up at 6am for a bit of early morning prayer? Too tiring.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as evangelical about anything as I was about the gym at university. Within a week of joining I’d already ‘converted’ three of my best friends to gym-goers, and had taken a few in on guest passes. When I was at the gym I’d soak in the atmosphere, and on returning to my flat I’d tell everyone about it – about how clean and nice and fun and energising it was to be in.
If only I was as evangelical about Jesus. I think I’d have seen a lot more people interested in church over the course of my lifetime if I was half as passionate about him as I was about running. Or if I gave half as much headspace and conversation space to God as I did to food and exercise.
Let’s not sacrifice the best of ourselves on the altar of our waistlines. Let’s not put our best efforts into fasting to lose weight, or getting up early to run a million miles. Let’s give God the best of our headspace, the best of our time, the best of our energies and our highest devotion.