Early in 2013 the Lord began speaking to me about getting into the gym and specifically about weight training. Throughout the first few months of that year it seemed like every time I turned around He was confirming what He had called me to do. One of the loudest “voices” He used were the numbers on my lab work from my yearly physical. To say the least, some of those numbers were not good. I wish that I could say that I joyfully accepted His call and immediately chose to obey, but that is, in fact, NOT what happened. In fact, the conversion between the Holy Spirit and I went more like this:
“I want you to get to the gym and not only do I want you to commit to a cardio workout, but I want you to also begin to use weights.”
“Yes, Lord, I know I need to get into shape. I will cut way back on my intake of sweets.”
“Well, not what I asked you to do. Obey what I called you to do.”
“Lord, I am thinking that I should cut the portion size of my meals in half. I know I’ve read somewhere that is a great place to start when trying to get into shape.”
“Again, not what I asked you to do. Obey me.”
“Lord, I’ve been pretty good about walking, right? I will be more faithful with that and even increase the intensity and distance. The weight thing, though…..I just don’t even know the first thing about how to start weight training.”
“I do not want your sacrifice of sweets or smaller meal portions or an increase in how fast or far you are now walking. I want your obedience.”
The conversation went on like this for most of the year. My reluctance to obey mainly stemmed from the fact that I’m not big on trying new things. Not only am I not big on trying new things, but when I know nothing about what I’m about to attempt to do, I would just rather not attempt it. Besides I’m pretty sure that this weight lifting thing was going to be hard work and probably even painful and well….hard. And what about the time commitment that was going to be involved in going to the gym? I just do not have a whole lot of excess time that I have no idea where to spend. You know what else? I had tried working out before. It went great for a couple of weeks and then I was right back where I was before I got the bright idea to put a tape in my VCR and dance around my living room with Richard Simmons all decked out in his short shorts. No, I had failed at this exercise business in the 80’s and every decade since then. There was simply no reason to believe that this time would be any different.
In spite of every excuse I could come up with not to obey, the voice of the Holy Spirit was unrelenting, “Obey what I’ve called you to do.”
As if the Holy Spirit speaking to me was not enough, my precious husband somehow became convinced that regular exercise is precisely what a menopausal woman needed to help balance out her wildly fluctuating hormones. (Silly husband, been married over twenty-five years and did not know that he might should have kept that bit of helpful information to himself!) Never one to cower at his ranting wife though, on the pretense of taking me on a date one night in December, he drove me to the gym. As I signed my name on the enrollment form, I surrendered my will to that of the Lord’s.
I began the following Monday with a commitment to work out faithfully for six weeks. I was clueless as to how to start. I mean, using the treadmill or elliptical was a no brainer, but weights was a different story. There were so many weight sizes and so many different machines and how in the world was I supposed to know which one to use and then how to use it?! It was overwhelming and I could not imagine how I was going to make any sense of the whole thing. As I stepped out in obedience though, the Holy Spirit showed up in a big way.
Every time I walked through the doors of the gym, He gave me clear and definite direction. It was as if my own personal trainer met me at the entrance and laid out the workout plan for the day. I was acutely aware of His voice and presence. He began by leading me to the back of the gym where the thirty-minute workout station was. After a few weeks of getting the hang of that I made the mistake of mentioning to Him, that this wasn’t so bad and that I shouldn’t have put up such a fuss over coming to the gym.
“Well, now that you’re comfortable and feeling like you got this, it’s time to move out of this secluded room and out into the main gym.”
“Wait, Lord, no…I mean please, no. The people out there really know what they’re doing. I don’t fit out there. I like it in the thirty-minute workout room where I’m surrounded by my people. You know, the ones who don’t know any more what they’re doing than I do.”
Within a few weeks I was getting into a good routine out in the main gym. The Holy Spirit started me on the machines, but from the moment the thought that I could do this as long as He did not want me to do free weights, went through my head, I knew that it would not be long before He moved me to the free weights. I was right. He moved me right on to the free weights.
After my initial six week commitment was up I knew the Lord was calling me to commit to this workout for a full year. Honestly, I chose to obey because I knew I could not claim to love Him and willingly walk in disobedience to what I knew He had required of me. I hated the gym. I hated working out. I hated the time that it required. There was literally nothing about this whole thing that I enjoyed or brought me any happiness. I, quite simply, did not feel like being obedient.
One day I was having a particularly hard time. I literally forced myself to go to the gym that day. Early on, the Lord made clear to me that I was not to even entertain thoughts of giving myself a day off. For me to be completely obedient, outside of being out of town, I was to work out six days a week. Sunday was a non-negotiable day off, which was not to be used as a make-up day.
I was having a hard time holding back the tears as I drove to the gym. I was angry that my choice was to be obedient or to not work out. I did not want to do this anymore. I had been at this for months and had not lost so much as a pound. I was discouraged. Not only did I hate the whole exercise thing, but I was weary of the work the Lord was doing in my soul. You see, He did not call me to this simply for physical benefit, but because He was using it as a tool to usher in His healing for my wounded soul.
Between sets on the rowing machine, I could not hold back the tears any longer. I was so mad that He was making me do this. I was tired and just wanted to be at home. As I wiped away angry tears with the back of my hand He spoke to me through the song playing through my ear buds.
“I lay me down. I’m not my own. I belong to you alone.”
“Lay me down, lay me down.”
“Hand on my heart this much is true, I belong to you alone.”
“It will be my joy to say, Your will, Your way…”
The words of the song faded and the voice of the Holy Spirit was clear and commanding,
“You are not your own and this fit you’re throwing is unacceptable. Stop grumbling and complaining and obey me with joy. I have a purpose in this that you do not see or understand right now. Trust that I am good and that I love you.” I stopped the complaining from that moment on.
I have faithfully worked out now for over a year and only in looking back am I able to see some of what the Lord had in mind for me when He started me on this adventure. Come to find out, the number on the scale did not matter to Him at all. He was about going much deeper. The lab write up from my yearly physical came in the mail not too long ago, and wouldn’t you know that the numbers were an amazing improvement over last year’s. I am talking a miraculous improvement! I feel better. I sleep better, and oh yeah, my husband was right about exercise being beneficial for menopausal women. The improvement in that area of my life is outstanding.
The Lord knew though, that there were even deeper, eternal reasons why He required my obedience. On the one year anniversary of being in the gym, I finished at my last lifting station and the glory of the Lord overwhelmed me. I physically felt a certain stronghold that had bound me for years fall powerless to the ground. I could not hold back tears of relief and joy! Don’t you know the regulars there are convinced that I have some sort of issue that might need the help of a professional! 😀
What area of your life has the Lord called you to be obedient in? Do not run because it’s hard or unfamiliar or because you are fearful. Although we often expect it, He never promised us easy. He did, however, promise us that He would never leave or forsake us. What He is requiring of you may not make a bit of sense to you now, but you do not see what He sees and you do not know the end from the beginning as He does. Step out and obey Him. Trust that He loves you and that He has already given you everything you need to be victorious. Lean into the Holy Spirit and receive His counsel and know that the reward gained from an obedient, surrendered heart will not disappoint.