Reaching my mid-thirties led to the unpleasant realization that I can no longer rely on my fast metabolism to hide my unhealthy vices. My wife clearly noticed too, and intervened by presenting me with bright green smoothies and warrior exercise DVDs that she swore would make getting in shape convenient and (somewhat) enjoyable.
I was brought to action by promises of cardio shred, super strength, ripped core, kettle bell sculpted body, and much more. Each DVD began with a little motivational speech about the impact of what I was about to put my body through. In one such speech, the instructor asked, “What’s the most important muscle in the body?” and answered, “The heart . . . from the day you’re born to the day you die, it’s constantly working.”
This got me thinking about the value we put on things that can’t be seen (like the heart) versus the value we place on the things that are obvious (like noticeable arm muscles). Not only did working out appeal to me because of how it could improve my physical appearance, but also because it would give me more time to enjoy a long, active life with my family as a result of taking care of my heart.
Too many times to recount, my focus has been on doing right and making sure I can tick off all the “good Christian” boxes in life.
Stewarding the physical condition of our earthly bodies is important, but as 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Although training your body has certain payoffs, godliness benefits all things — holding promise for life here and now and promise for the life that is coming.” When Timothy speaks of “godliness” here, I don’t think he’s referring to our outward behaviors, but to a heart condition.
Too many times to recount, my focus has been on doing right and making sure I can tick off all the “good Christian” boxes in life. I thought if I got the outward aspects right, I’d be spiritually complete, and therefore able to get what I wanted out of life.
During those times I burdened myself by aiming for perfection, and when I inevitably failed, I beat myself up over my performance and determined to strive harder next time. Each time I would shut my heart off a little bit more, protect it so it wouldn’t get hurt when I failed again.
Proverbs 4:23 in the The Voice translation says, “Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life.” In the NLT translation it says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” But I’m learning that guarding my heart has nothing to do with shutting it away.
C.S Lewis said this about love:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
We can try to protect our hearts so they’re not vulnerable to the pains of this world, but in doing so, we also shut ourselves off from the love that God wants to pour into our hearts. In trying to keep our hearts safe, we can become spiritually unhealthy and develop an impenetrable shell.
However, we are still called to use wisdom in vulnerability. But where the world promotes a self-sufficiency that comes from a determined, ambitious, and independent heart, God wants our hearts to be healthy according to His Word.
Proverbs 4:20-22 tells us to “pay attention to all the words I am telling you. Lean in closer so you may hear all I say. Keep them before you; meditate on them; set them safely in your heart. For those who discover them, they are life. They bring wholeness and healing to their bodies.”
Two things stand out to me: all the words and discover them, they are life. Paying attention to all the words seems like a big commitment. There’s a lot in the Bible, and it can be daunting to try and work out a meaningful way of discovering all that’s in there.
When we spend time studying the Word consistently, we will eventually see the impact of our efforts in our spiritual lives.
Letting it fall open, picking a scripture at random, and praying that it somehow relates to your current challenge definitely seems like a good option when you have no idea where to begin. Like anything we do that is worthwhile, it takes time and commitment, particularly at the beginning when it can be emotionally and mentally tough to put time aside to get into the Word.
There are many things vying for our attention, but we have to stay focused, even when we don’t immediately see the benefits. Like committing to that bright green smoothie every day, when we spend time studying the Word consistently, we will eventually see the impact of our efforts in our spiritual lives.
If we don’t know the why behind the spiritual exercise, if we don’t determine to make a plan and prioritize this aspect of our lives, how are we ever going to become mature believers?
Being mature is about being intimate with Jesus, knowing him personally. Out of that relationship and openness of heart comes the fruit I want to see: things like patience, peace, wisdom, love for others.
Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we sit back and get spiritually fat, just listening to other’s revelations of Jesus, attending as many Christian conferences as we can, having a library of Christian books.
These practices are all valuable, but we have to pick up the weights, too. We have to use the treadmill, listen to the trainer, and set aside time to get stronger. The goal weight, spiritually speaking, should be experiencing more of Jesus and growing in your relationship with Him.
The frustration of not enjoying the Bible or the “life” that the Word promised led me to pray and ask God for help.
Over the years I’ve had times where I struggled to read my Bible because I didn’t think there was anything in there to discover and it wasn’t that interesting. But Proverbs tells us to discover the words because they are life.
The frustration of not enjoying the Bible or the “life” that the Word promised led me to pray and ask God for help. I asked to become more disciplined in my Bible reading so I could cultivate a healthy heart — a heart that wanted to be fed by God’s word, a heart that was strong, and a heart that produced good things in my life. I didn’t see instant perfection in my behavior, but I did start to see a change in my attitude toward the challenges of life.
Proverbs says that the word “brings wholeness and healing to their bodies.” This can mean the physical body, but I think of it more in terms of emotional, spiritual, and mental healing from the pain in our lives.
The Word of God brought the world to life and everything in it. When we allow our hearts to be vulnerable to what He is saying and when we make the time to discover the life and wisdom contained within the Bible, what is unseen will grow strong and we’ll remain spiritual warriors through our mid-thirties, avoiding green smoothie interventions along the way.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.