Did you think my fitness lessons were forgotten? Nope. The issue I have had with this particular lesson is whether or not to call it a fitness lesson. You see, it applies to every area of life and it is not really new. However, because I am learning to apply it to my health and exercise life I decided it should make it into the fitness file. In reality, I have been working on this one a while. Pieces of it came together, ideas that I tried to get down, but the flow was not there. Over the years, I have learned what that means…the timing is not right. So I put it away in snippets knowing that at some point, all of it would make sense and flow smoothly. I think today is that day. Maybe.
Freedom is such a huge topic. How to apply it is even bigger. Over the course of my life struggle with diet and exercise, freedom would not have been the word I would have chosen to describe it. If anything, legalism and bondage were the nouns of choice for my love/hate relationship with food. Much like the woman who goes back to the abusive husband over and over, I could not seem to break free. I was either splurging and eating everything in sight (my definition of freedom) or depriving myself of all things tasty (my definition of legalism). I could see that either end of this spectrum was bondage to me, so I was stuck…not knowing how to break free from this roller coaster ride that was killing my body.
This summer my weight loss slowed down considerably. My lack of routine is the main culprit. However, in the midst of this “less” successful stretch of time, something clicked in my mind. First of all, I was still loosing, just slower, but this time instead of beating myself up, I gave myself grace. I am not on a diet, so therefore, I cannot break my diet. In my mind, that is a huge step. An even bigger one is the fact that on the weeks I gained a pound or two I didn’t fall off the wagon. I have always heard it has to be a lifestyle, but I am actually feeling like it is sinking in this time. ( I hear all of you fitness people out there saying, “Finally…she gets it!”) I do not freak out if I have to miss jazzercise, I just substitute a walk, or a bike ride. Now I will tell you that, for me, I have to have a very strict schedule to make sure I don’t slowly slip back into old habit patterns. However, I have the ability now to make changes in my routine from time to time, and eat what I like. I can step right back into my new life the next day or the next meal. How awesome is that?!!! I have found there is freedom in not being legalistic with my food, or my exercise. With that freedom I have found that I crave healthy food and exercise. So I am free to eat or not to, to exercise or to rest. Now that this bondage has been broken I am learning to walk, granted in baby steps, but I am making this life change a reality and I am 50 lbs. lighter to prove it.
Now for the rest of the story…the part that has been in my computer for months. It’s a little longer than usual so bear with me.
Going back to the human spectrum of legalism vs. freedom causes me to think on levels other than fitness. As Christians, we call this continuum law vs. grace and we use the words grace and freedom interchangeably. Law means legalistic rules. Grace is the opposite. Christians need to be somewhere in the middle between the two. Right? Isn’t that how you have heard it? In fitness, the law is the diet mentality I have come to hate…counting grains of rice and measuring every bite, only to fall into guilt and self-loathing if I miscounted and gained an ounce. On the other hand, there is grace. Bingeing. Need I say more? This is eating anything and everything that is not tied down. Throw the rules to the wind! Back and forth the seesaw goes, however God is big. He knows the universal mysteries that we can only guess at…including how to get off this seesaw.
It seems that most of us have aimed for somewhere in the middle, between the law and grace. We call it balance. I have hunted for health balance for years. For my fitness level, I had settled in the middle. I tried not to gain, that was my big goal…just don’t gain. It was pitiful, but weariness of the seesaw life caused me to give up trying to find the freedom I was seeking. Then, one day I thought, “what if my definitions of law and grace are wrong?” What if grace isn’t in the human spectrum at all? The way I see it now is that the opposite of the law is lawlessness, and we are in a constant tug of war between the two. The stress we feel is the tension in the rope that is constantly pulling us in two opposing directions. It is the human experience.
Grace, on the other hand, is above our seesaw, tug of war lives. It is not even on the continuum, but runs parallel to it so that at any point grace can come to the rescue. Grace is what sets us free. It is an unseen power that rests above the human experience and can reach down to release us from either end of the spectrum. All we have to do is ask. To apply this principle to health is a new idea for me. Grace is what empowers freedom. Freedom without it is not really freedom at all, but bondage. Just ask any addict. Even food addicts know that to eat all you want is deadly eventually.
Learning how to grab hold of the grace is the trick. To see the human spectrum for what it is…bondage…on both ends. It is supernatural grace, which leads us to salvation. We recognize our need, we know we are dead where we sit and so we reach out for his hand. For me, it is similar with my health. Rather than struggle with my human seesaw, I realized I was dying…literally. I grabbed a hold of the empowering grace of God to believe in who he created me to be…the healthy me. Grace has given me the power to say no to things that will kill me, and yes to things that will build me up. Grace has given me my life back. With that life, has come freedom. Grace first, then freedom. They are not the same. One comes before the other. My lesson for these past couple of summer months is to embrace freedom. Freedom to walk up a mountain. Freedom to walk 60 miles. Freedom to hike with my family. Freedom to feel good about my health. Freedom to eat and exercise the way my body craves. Freedom to live fully.
Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:16-18
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal. 5:1