Catching her breath at the treadmill next to me, the woman in the pink tee shirt asked how long before she would see “results.” It was her first workout, she explained, and she was excited. Like a lot of people who come to the fitness room at the local YWCA, she was determined to lose — finally! — those extra pounds.
“Just keep at it,” I said, smiling encouragingly. “It gets easier the more you exercise, and more fun! You’ll notice the difference in just a few weeks.”
I saw her at the gym once or twice more, but eventually she dropped out. It’s a shame, but not uncommon.
Many people, bursting with resolve and determination, start exercising with zeal but quickly drop out from disillusionment, boredom or impatience. It’s not hard to see why. Working out can be grueling and monotonous at times. And going from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one requires grit and willpower, but it really pays off.
Spiritual exercise can be like that as well. Daily prayer, regular Bible reading, church attendance — these may seem like monotonous drudgery at first. Many people undertake spiritual exercises with gusto and high hopes, only to quickly become discouraged and quit.
Sustaining a physical workout regimen takes not only desire but discipline as well. You just have to keep at it long enough. At some point, you know it’s worth it — when you realize you are huffing and puffing much less, when your clothes fit you better, when the bathroom scale brings smiles instead of frowns, when you find you have a lot more energy and less stress. It’s easier to stay with the program when you see what it’s doing for you.
Sustaining a spiritual exercise regimen requires the same mix of desire and discipline. Keep at it long enough, and something will happen. Maybe you will find yourself inexplicably relaxed when encountering a stressful situation that you have been praying about. Maybe while re-reading Scripture you will suddenly have a flash of insight. Maybe during prayer you receive a jolt of exhilaration as a spark of the Holy One energizes your soul. When God touches you in some meaningful way, you find it is all worth it. And then it’s not a chore to pray, or to read Scripture, but a joy.
The woman in the pink tee shirt didn’t stick with her program long enough to see results, like a lot of people I’ve seen come and go in the years I’ve been a YWCA “regular.” She left probably just before that point when she would have begun seeing big changes.
Sometimes folks give up on prayer, church attendance or regular Scripture reading prematurely, too. How is your spiritual fitness?
Copyright (c) 2010, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.
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