Monday, January 19, 2009

Attitude Adjustment

I don't think it's any secret that I struggle with exercising. I mentioned here and here that Father asked me to change the way I look at exercise, and to view it as an act of love for God and my family. I haven't really given that an honest try.

I hate exercising. There have been times in my life when I've gotten into a decent exercise routine, and I felt good in the midst of it, but exercise has never been something I've done readily or willingly.

Last Tuesday, I had a meeting with Pastor, and took the opportunity to tack on confession to the end of it. I had to admit to him that I still had not done the penance Father had assigned me before Christmas... to commit to a regular exercise plan. (Three very reluctant, 20-minute jaunts on the treadmill in 3 1/2 weeks does not a "regular" plan make). We talked about the where's and why-not's, and he asked me to take this to prayer, and to consider exercising in the smallest possible increments. "Jen, could you try to do just 10 minutes a day?" Of course I could. I could do more than that. I just don't want to.

But, having had two confessions in a month that ended up being about my not exercising, I very begrudgingly, and with a nasty attitude, climbed on the treadmill Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each time I sludged through my twenty minutes, hopping off the treadmill the second the timer hit 20:00. On Friday, I got off the treadmill, filled with annoyance. There has to be some way to exercise and not have it be such a miserable chore. How can I get myself to feel better about it?

As I got ready for my day, it hit me. I don't have to feel like exercising. I just have to do it. Love is an action, remember? It's not an emotion. It doesn't matter how I feel. Just as Father told me when I was in the midst of a spiritual dry spell and just not "feeling it" in prayer, it doesn't matter how I feel. It's the act that matters. Whether prayer, exercise, or any number of other things I do (laundry, cooking, groceries, etc), the act is what matters.

Yesterday morning, in mass, the second reading, Paul's letter to the Corinthians, hit me square between the eyes.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Whoa. Talk about feeling convicted. Father's homily focused on this reading, and he extended Paul's warnings against immoral use of the body beyond the original sexual intent to poor stewardship of our bodies through overeating, failure to exercise, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and even allowing anger to fester into rage. I squirmed in the pew, feeling very much that he was holding up a mirror. Yep, that was me he was talking about yesterday morning.

I came home and re-read Paul's letter. I prayed a bit, journaled a bit, and then got on the treadmill. I've had the worst attitude about this. I treat my body like crap, because it's my body, and so I can. Except that it's not my body. It's God's body. He merely lent it to me to use. He asked me to be the steward of this body, to care for it during the time I am here on earth.

I think about when I borrowed a friend's special crystal platter. How did I act then? Was I careless, thoughtless, and lazy? Why do I not treat this body God lent me with as much gentleness and care as the platter my friend lent me?

I got on the treadmill yesterday and prayed. Again this morning, after mass and breakfast, I got back on the treadmill. I prayed some more. I am not going to focus on scales, measurements, or goals. This is not about losing weight, fitting into a certain size, looking a certain way. This is about caring for my body. This is about loving God, and showing Him my love by treating this body as gently, carefully, and lovingly as I would a friend's treasured platter.

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