I don’t do triathlons or marathons. I’m also not a fitness fanatic. But as a 58-year-old preacher, I have become increasingly aware of my own mortality and the ever-lowering influence of gravity.
Early on in my ministry, I began to realize that I had better start exercising or bad things would happen. Heart attacks, diabetes, and strokes happen to pastors, too.
I had been in such good shape for so many years that it was easy for me to ignore my physical abnormalities in my ministry. From my late teens to early 20s, I was a roofer by trade. After 10 to 12 hours of manual labor each day, I became thin, tanned, and ripped. In college, I was 8% body fat and could compete with the best when it came to things like push-ups and sit-ups.
face the excuse
But then something strange happened. I stopped roofing and built a church.
I turned a roofing hammer into a commentator, a ladder into a desk, and a once grueling physical job into a sedentary job. To add insult to injury, I tore my ACL while dancing to a Michael Jackson video (don’t ask). Then, using the injury as an excuse, I became even less active.
My weight went from 155 to 223. The closest I came to training was when I dashed into the kitchen and shoved a fork full of food in my face. As a result, my blood pressure spiked and my energy dropped. During the day, I started scheduling what I lovingly dubbed “fat naps” to compensate for my lack of energy.
I felt guilty every time preached upon self control, because it was clear that I couldn’t control my appetite. I coped with stress by eating. I dealt with the frustration of serving by eating. I dealt with the guilt I felt from eating.
I come from a very health-conscious family of bodybuilders and powerlifters, all of which I dismissed as a bit “unspiritual.” I figured my body was temporary anyway. Why should I spend my time in pain and strain from working out when I’m going to have a new body in heaven someday?
But what I realized was that if I didn’t do something soon, my body was going to break down. Really Temporary. If I hadn’t taken drastic action, I would have gone to heaven earlier than planned.
1 Timothy 4:8 reminds us:
… Physical training has some value, but godliness has value in all things and has promise both in this life and in the life to come.
As church leaders, we naturally focus on the importance of eternal values. But if we don’t stay in decent physical condition, a stroke or heart attack could shorten our time on earth living those values.