My Body: Slave or Master?

“I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize,” –the Apostle Paul.

I’m not an athlete—decidedly not. I took up ‘working out’ three weeks ago, and I’ve yet to wane in enthusiasm, though choir practices leading up to Easter services have put a temporary damper on things. Have you tried to sing for two hours—holding long phrases, hitting high notes–after working your abs?

That’s one way for a rookie ‘worker-outer’ to make a fool of herself.

In this short stint of exercising, I’ve learned is that determination is just as important as strength. One exercise I perform is ‘wall-sitting’—you know, the one where you sit against the wall as if in a chair, but there is no chair? For a minute I’m good. But come 70 seconds, my legs are screaming, and at 90 I am holding the position by force of will only–but I am holding it.

What would happen if I quit as soon as I hit the pain threshold? Would the exercise be effective? It’s that old axiom, ‘No pain, no gain.’ We put aside comfort for the sake of the greater goal—fitness in my case, and in St. Paul’s case, reaching many with the Gospel.

But are we willing to go that far?

I’ve heard enough (and done enough) whining lately to think not. Oh we human creatures can whine!

It’s so hard. Oh, it’s so hard—I’m so bored of healthy eating. It’s too hard to pack healthy food to work. I just want French fries.

My books won’t sell. Why won’t they sell? Why do I get these bad reviews?

All my pants are baggy.  I hate it when my clothes don’t fit.  I deserve new jeans.

I can’t hold those long notes—I have a cold. My lung capacity is diminished. My abs hurt from all those planks. I’m not out of shape, oh no, not me. 🙂

“So quit,” I said to myself, while walking through the grocery store wishing for pizza. “So quit,” I thought as the person on Facebook complained that they were bored with health food.  If it’s too hard, quit. Presto! Problem solved. Whining stopped. Commence pizza-eating. But you know you can’t eat like a normal person and get abnormal health results. I’m sorry.

You can’t be above average while acting average.

If the results simply aren’t worth the effort, just be honest with yourself and don’t say ‘I’m bored’ or ‘it’s too hard’. Say ‘It wasn’t worth it to me.’

An example: I stopped taking violin lessons when I graduated from college, and though I kept up playing for a while, I simply did not have time for everything I wanted to accomplish. I can’t stand to be bad at the violin, and I don’t want to put the time in to be good. It simply isn’t worth the effort, so I let it go. That’s why I’m not good at hockey, or Call of Duty even though I’ve enjoyed both. The result isn’t worth the effort.

But if what you want is worth it, prepare for the struggle. Prepare to give up whatever it takes. Prepare to ‘beat your body and make it your slave’.

In the passage leading up to the verse I quoted, Paul lists out his rights as an apostle and a leader in the Christian church and then says “But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ,” (emphasis mine).

Imagine being so passionate about your cause, your dream, your faith, that you’d put up with anything rather than sabotage it–whatever ‘it’ is.

This means losing sleep and leisure time, this means pain and pizza only on birthdays. This will probably mean embarrassment—even if it’s only the discomfiture of holding a ‘superman’ position on the floor of the locker room as your coworkers walk past.

I don’t want to do this. My body does not want to eat another omelet. It wants a chocolate muffin. My body doesn’t want to open up my laptop and start writing. It wants to watch TV. My body doesn’t want to engage my coworker in conversation and take an interest in her life. It wants to be silent and shy.

But who’s the master?  Me or my body?



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