Running In Place
It was a warm, sunny day in May. Birds were singing softly. I felt the heat of the sun beating down on my back, now covered in sweat from the nine miles I had just run. One more to finish and I could go for a swim and work out at the gym. After that I would go home to plan my meals for the week. I counted every calorie, every carbohydrate, and every vitamin. I wanted to make sure that I kept my body in good shape. After all, God gave it to me. It was His holy Temple. I should take good care of it. I had been following this rigid schedule for over a year now and had never been healthier. As I passed an old house, I waved to Mrs. Perham, who was rocking on her porch. Although she was a sweet lady, I hoped she wouldn’t call me over. I couldn’t help but be tempted by her offers of homemade pies, cookies, and breads. I knew she meant well but I couldn’t seem to make her understand that I was very careful about what I ate. Mrs. Perham always seemed to be content with her life and her work in the church. She had taught Sunday School for over ten years. She was plump and didn’t get much exercise. She had many health problems related to this. The thing that always amazed me about her, though, was the constant smile she wore on her face. “Karen,” Mrs. Perham called. “Can you stop over for a minute?” Hesitantly, I slowed my pace and turned up her sidewalk. She ushered me into her old but well kept home. “I just made a cheesecake, Karen. Would you like to share a piece with me. I have vanilla ice cream to go with it,” she asked with a voice as sweet as her pastries. I had to refuse and offered the same explanation that I always had. She was very kind and wondered if I could just sit and talk for awhile. I hurriedly explained that I had to keep running or it would ruin my self-discipline. She understood and said good-bye. Then she offered God’s blessings and said she would pray for me. Pray for me? Well, that was nice of her, but I didn’t need her prayers as much as some others who were sick and unhealthy. When I finished with my routine of exercise and planned my meals for the week, I thought of Mrs. Perham’s words to me. Suddenly, I felt burdened for those others I thought Mrs. Perham had forgotten; those in our church family who were sick or in the hospital. I recalled Jim, a man who had been in an automobile accident earlier that week. I picked up the phone. He would need some cheering up and prayer while being confined. I dialed the number and impatiently waited while they connected me to his room. A soft voice answered. It was Jim’s wife, Carol. She explained that he was unable to hold the phone with all of his injuries but she would put it to his ear while we talked. Jim and I had a pleasant conversation. He was in much better spirits than I had expected. He talked about how much he had grown and learned from this experience. God was teaching Jim to trust Him. I was amazed at his attitude! He just kept praising God. I hung up the phone feeling a sense of awe. How could this man, broken in body, be so filled with joy? I couldn’t understand it. Putting it out of my mind, I began to prepare dinner. Afterwards, I sat down for my daily devotions. Yesterday I had finished reading I Timothy, chapter three. Turning to chapter four, I skimmed verses one through six. As I read verse seven, God spoke to me! He was telling me to spend time exercising… I could relate with that. But, somehow I just couldn’t find the supreme happiness that Mrs. Perham and Jim both had. I kept reading. “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do.” I Timothy 4:7b-8a (LB) I began to think about what God was saying to me. I had been spending so much time planning how to stay physically fit that I hardly had any time left to work on my spiritual health. I didn’t take much time to spend with God or other Christians. Instead of reaching out to others, I pushed them away; like Mrs. Perham. Her smile had puzzled me for a long time, as did Jim’s joyful attitude after his car accident. Now it all seemed to make sense. They were working on their spiritual condition; exercising their faith and building up their relationship with Christ. I had only been working on my physical body. I finally understood. Physical health was good, but not in itself. There had to be a balance. From now on, the scale would be tipped in favor of the most important; my eternal soul. Then, I remembered Mrs. Perham’s baking and how she strove to do something nice for me. I decided that next time I jogged by her house, I would stop and take her up on her offer.