I went to an all-girls boarding school in Cape Coast, Ghana. During the first academic term of every year, we’d have sports season, and the entire school would go into training mode, regardless of whether you were an athlete or not.
We called it ‘Keep Fit’.
Conveniently (but not so conveniently for me) my school was located right on top of a hill. Every morning, girls were required to wake up at 4:30am, throw on their running shoes and gym kit, and run down the hill and back before laying their bed, taking a shower or doing any chores.
Now, personally, I have never been a sportive person. I always joke that I have the hand-to-eye coordination of a bat… except what people scarcely realize is that it is no joke. Lol. Sports are not my thing. And I have always accepted that. The exercise of running up and down hills was not only pointless to me because I would never qualify as an athlete, but frankly, it was just cumbersome.
So morning after morning, being the deviant I was, I would put on my sneakers in front of my dorm monitor, pretend to head out towards the trail, then conveniently hide in one of the bathroom stalls for a believable 10-15 minutes before returning to my dormitory sporting a fake pant. And Oscar-worthy performance if I do say so myself.
As the years went on, and the pounds packed on, I (not surprisingly) actually found the value in keeping fit. I’d spend 1-2 hours a day running and jumping and lifting because I understood how important it was not only to keep the weight off, but to be healthy. I realized that waking up at 4 in the morning to run and lift heavy made me feel amazing and completely changed my demeanor and outlook for any given day. If I had even bothered trying in high school, I would have realized that keeping fit wasn’t that hard, and was actually the best thing I could do with my morning.
I’m sure you’re wondering what the point of all this is, so let me get straight to it:
I was on vacation in Ghana for two weeks and have not seen the inside of a gym or the sole of a running shoe for three. Between late night kelewele (fried plantain) binges and bowls of fufu (pounded yam and plantain), coupled with 10pm dinners and malt breakfasts, I fully expected to have gained at LEAST 10 pounds. Truth is I gained not one. As soon as I dragged my bags into my apartment, I ran for the scale, and the number had not budged. On a diet of malt and kelewele? Surely this wasn’t possible. I needed a second opinion so I pulled out my ‘pias’ (tight) work pants and they were actually more loose than before!
In reveling in this miracle, two things occurred to me:
1. The work you put into what matters to you will sustain you. Because I had invested so much time and energy into being fit and building muscle, even when I didn’t have access to the gym or wasn’t running 5 miles a day, my body’s metabolism was still revving. To parallel spiritual health, even in times of drought or times when you don’t hear from God as clearly as you’re used to, even when you’re not pressing in as hard, the vision and word He’s already given you still has the power to sustain you. We won’t always get a new revelation or new power, but He is the same yesterday and today and forever more. His Word from a year ago still holds value. His strength can still be made perfect in and through you in any season. You are already empowered to succeed. Colossians 2:6-7 says:
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
2. What looks good on the outside, may not always mirror the inside.While the number on my scale hadn’t budged, a quick trip to the gym this morning revealed that what was once a 5 mile run quickly turned into a ten minute jog before my legs erupted in runners fire and I practically had to fling myself off the treadmill to save myself from the pain lol. In times when we fail to press in, or we relax, we may still look great on the outside as Christians, but on the inside there is a disconnect that might make a comeback look formidable – that may even cause you to want to give up. You may not feel as close to or centered in Christ as you’re used to. But those are the times you have to dig deep. Those are the seasons when you have to push harder, run faster, go longer. Those are the seasons when you grow and find what you’re really made of – or rather WHO you’re made of. Rev 2:5 puts it plainly:
So remember the heights from which you have fallen, and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will] and do the works you did at first [when you first knew Me]
Waking up for Keep Fit in High School was the most painful thing in the world to me, but I understand the value in it now. Waking up at 4:30 every morning to read my Bible and pray and meditate and exercise might seem crazy to some people, but it’s a discipline that sustains me. It keeps me going and on track. And even in the seasons when I slack off, when vacation or busy schedules distract me from really pressing in, I just jump right back in because I place a huge precedence on my spiritual and physical health. You invest in what matters to you and what fulfills you, and in turn, it will sustain you no matter what comes.
Don’t be afraid to push yourself!
Needless to say I foresee many painful runs and 4am alarms to come in the next few months, but I am excited to see myself grow!