Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 NIV
Jesus encouraged listeners with these words taken from an Old Testament passage of Scripture. He is addressing the surrender of our entire being to everything that God desires for us. Heart–our passions, our values, our desires. Soul–the spiritual part of our being, the portion that longs most desperately for reconnection with our Creator. Mind–the way we think, the priorities we have. Strength–the physical part of our being, what we do, what we eat, where we go.
So…as I am limping through my run this morning (that’s a proper description of what I’m doing at almost 46 years old. Tired knees and a bad ankle require that) I was pondering the connectedness of those four areas. The interesting thing is that the lessons I have learned in one area carry over into others. Specifically, as I have worked–with Lisa’s encouragement–to become healthier in my physical life, I’ve learned a lot about my spiritual being. I thought I’d share a few of those lessons:
- Retraining your body takes time. The same is true with your mind and heart. I’ve shared before that beginning to run and exercise again regularly was not easy. I had let parenthood and work and other things provide an excuse for letting my body go. I’ve done the same thing with my soul on many occasions. There is always a reason not to focus on your spiritual being. There are also many reasons to quit once you’ve started. The biggest reason is the frustration we get when things dont change immediately. Think about it. Wouldn’t it be a little crazy to start an exercise program, jump on a scale at the end of day one and be angry that you hadn’t lost 5 pounds immediately? Why do we expect the changes in our heart to come any easier? Satan works hard and long to inhibit your change. He will throw every means of frustration he can in your path. Change is not easy; it will come. But it will only come as you keep the end goal in mind without becoming too easily frustrated.
- The most appealing things in life can be the least fulfilling. When I was younger, I had a really bad habit–though it tasted really good. My mom would buy a bag of Snicker’s minis or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. She’d place them in the refrigerator, right inside the door. I would come home from practice, plop down in front of a ball game and consume the entire bag. The whole thing. Have you ever read how many calories are in one of those bags? I would justify that there were nuts (protein) and milk (calcium) so it couldn’t be completely bad. But you and I both know there was very little real value to what I consumed. Not to mention the empty calories from the numerous sodas I consumed at the ball field as a kid. I was filling my stomach with things that could never satisfy the needs of my body. Many of us do the same things with our heart and mind. We could spend an entire blog talking about how electronic devices and social media have filled an entire generation with “worthless” information that overwhelms them. Really, why do I need to know where you got your latest cup of coffee or what your toes look like buried in the sand? A casual glance around you will reveal that we somehow believe we can’t live without that information. Our heads are buried in our smart phones watching the entire world around us live their life–while we forget to live ours. At least, we forget to live it the way God intended. He talked about lives that are full and abundant. But full of what? I’m afraid we have settled for “Snickers visions” and “Peanut Butter Cup dreams”…things that sure taste good but don’t truly satisfy.
- Change brings pain. Pain isn’t always bad. I’ve always said, “Change is good. You go first.” For some reason, human nature causes us to run from change or to avoid it at all costs. Perhaps it’s the pain that often accompanies change. But pain carries many different messages. Pain trains you to avoid the hot stove. Pain tells you when something is wrong or out of place. But pain can also reveal growth, maturity and forward movement. I remember the nights I would awake as a kid and wonder into my parents room in tears because of the “growing pains” that I felt in my legs. I didn’t enjoy them. But I loved the end result. I would hate to be 45 years old and still wondering through life in the body of an 8 year old. I know many Christ followers who are doing that very thing. They are shabby in their faith, immature in their thinking and will do anything they can to avoid pain. Perhaps that’s the reason why false teachers get away with pushing the idea that Christ followers don’t face troubles (HUGE lie). But trials and tribulation (aka pain) are like the exercises that build our muscles, they strengthen our faith and mature our spiritual being.