Dropping into my seat on a plane going from Dallas to Santa Ana, CA to instruct a group of personal fitness professionals, I took a few moments to mentally scan my list ensuring I had everything fulfilled. Kids . . . covered, dog covered, mail, clients, husband, deadlines, everything I need for my 3 day training, check, check, check! As I let out a deep sign, I was pondering the question that I received often; “How do you do it?” People would be referring to tending to an in demand career, maintaining a loving relationship with my husband, managing a household, raising two young children, finding time for my fitness and fitting in some adventures as well. For me, the response was simple (or so I thought). It was exercise. As long as I had exercise as a regular part of my life, the other pieces fell into place. Exercise was my peace, my stress relief, my outlet. I had even called it my church.
Not only had I experienced this personally, but as a clinical exercise physiologist for over 20 years, I had seen the positive evidence of a fit lifestyle on thousands of clients. If I could just get someone to add exercise to their lifestyle, they were more conscious of making better nutrition choices, they slept better, they managed stress more effectively, they had superior posture and less pain, their blood chemistries improved, they released unwanted fat, they were happier, physiques transformed, skin glowed and more. I saw people develop the confidence to ask for a raise, compete in sports, get off medication and stop living life as an apprehensive spectator.
Easily I could fill a book with volumes of evidence of the effect of exercise on every area of someone’s life from their mental clarity to their longevity and even their income. Eureka, this would be my next book! I turned to a blank page in my note book and wrote the word exercise in the center and smiled as I circled it. Then I drew lines extending out like a sunburst leading to the words; nutrition, stress, personal care, longevity, environment, career, family, relationships, mind, and spirit. My wellness wheel was complete.
What if God was in the middle? How could I disagree?
Inspired that I had just mind mapped the chapters of my new book, I returned home to meet with a colleague who was both fitness pro as well as a journalist. I enthusiastically shared with her my diagram with “exercise” in the center. She listened intently to my enthusiastic portrayal of the book I was about to scribe. When I was done avidly sharing evidence and the examples I was ready to pour into the book, she smiled and simply said, “What if God was in the middle?” My enthusiasm withered. How could I disagree?
I closed the notebook page and it wound up in a cabinet in my office with dozens of other notebooks I had kept since I was a child. And so the journey of putting God in the middle began, but I didn’t know it.
At the time, I didn’t own a bible. My book shelves were filled with over 300 fitness & nutrition books. I looked up an online version of the bible and searched “exercise”. Here is the very first scripture I found, “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true and everyone should accept it”. WOW! That was power filled for me! Did God put that there just for me? I dove in and started to feel that God was personally speaking to me with every scripture, sermon, bible study and conference I dove into.
With God, the struggle to stick to a diet, stress to look a certain way, pressure to fit in exercise or eat all organic, all went away and the focus became on wanting to honor your body because it is His temple. With a simple shift of moving God to the middle, instead of exercise, He had positive and far reaching effects on all of the area’s I had outlined in my original drawing. I had the revelation that exercise was one of the spokes and not the center.
I realize that I may be in the minority putting exercise in the center. It may be something different for you, some other habit that is positively (or negatively) affecting all of the other areas of your life, yet still leaving you short of His fullness. Ultimately the spirit, mind and body are connected and cannot be separated from each other. When God is in the middle of your thinking, your health and your lifestyle selections, you will want to stand upright and make the best choices. You will want to move your body in positive and enjoyable ways. You will want to consume wholesome and nutritious foods that God made. You will want to rest, to meditate and to steer clear of harmful choices. And it’s all done with peace, no pressure.
I challenge you to consider what you have put in the center of your life, even if it’s your talent or something healthy and fill that place with God! Incredible transformation awaits!
Beloved, I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. - 3 John 2