By Is Andrews
As I write, today is 15th January—bang in the middle of the week in which most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions. You may have signed up to one of the many pledges of the month (like Veganuary, Run Every Day in January, or No Beer for a Year), bought some lifestyles gadgets, exercise clothes or a juicer, or maybe joined a gym.
In Congress, we are very familiar with the idea of tracking the season: noticing when old patterns are no longer sufficient, embracing an upgraded perspective and set of behaviours. We also recognise that transformation is part of our DNA in God, and we can joyfully ask for and receive grace to walk into new ways.
My approach to fitness and health has developed over nearly fifteen years of listening carefully to God, as He has re-scripted me from the inside out. He did it in gentle ways, with small suggestions that were little more than a tweak of mindset. In my late twenties, I was overweight and unfit; I ate too much of the wrong sorts of food, I had literally never seen the inside of a gym, and the likelihood of being seen exercising in public (or private!) in any form was unimaginable.
For me, there was no momentous thunderclap, as a sleek and strong athlete erupted out of nowhere wearing running shoes and a headband! I had refused to think about body image or sport for my entire adult life—the combination of intimidation and irrelevance meant I simply ignored the whole idea.
So, God came at the thing sideways, bit by manageable bit. First, a small exercise of self-control, giving up wine for Lent. A few months later, I joined a gym to walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes and go for a swim a couple of times a week. Over time, the amount of exercise I could comfortably do increased, and I began to really enjoy pushing myself to try a few extra laps of the pool. I joined a Pilates class, and started working on my core strength.
Life intervened, of course. I had two more children over those first years, and experienced some fairly significant mobility issues in my final pregnancy. But God had permanently shifted something inside me, and even if my fitness levels sometimes dipped, my mindset stayed the same. I was transformed by the renewing of my mind into a woman created by God to move with power and strength, to exercise self-discipline over my body, and to enjoy the way He had made me: fearfully and wonderfully!
Eventually, God spoke clearly to me about food, and with support from wise friends who’d already walked the path, I learned to eat in a way that was healthy (from dietary and mental / emotional perspectives) and easy to sustain.
If you asked me about my exercise patterns now, you might think I’m fairly far along the spectrum of a fitness fanatic: I run every day, and in a normal week I’d do a couple of 10ks as part of that; I go to a tough HIIT class twice a week; I do some yoga / stretching fairly frequently, and I choose to walk basically everywhere I possibly can rather than drive. I’m strong, I’m fit, and I’m healthy.
But I didn’t ‘wake up like this’! It’s been a long and enjoyable journey, stewarded carefully by the Holy Spirit every step. It’s stable. It’s balanced. It provides strength and confidence in a transformation track for other areas of my life which require me to step out into new ways.
New wine requires new wineskins—but don’t be intimidated by the idea of radical change overnight. If you have already fallen off the New-Year’s-Resolution wagon, fear not. The stumble is the lie. Your transformation journey can start with small steps. A gentle tweak here, a minor adjustment here, and you’re further along the path to becoming the person God has always designed you to be. And we can walk it together.