By Alisa Keeton
As the Christmas trees get undressed and the lights come down, many of us feel the pull to put away the bottomless cookie jar, ease up on the spiced pumpkin lattes, and consider more of what’s found in the produce aisle. Every year, without fail, the New Year brings with it a collective energy on the earth toward doing whatever it takes to move something off our wish plate and put it into action. With “getting in shape” at the top of many people’s lists, the bathroom scale most often becomes their trainer, with a checklist of do’s and dont’s as their guide. But for people who love God, it’s often not that simple. What if for Christ-followers, our desire to get healthy is a bigger story than what a Saturday infomercial can tell in one hour of before-and-after pictures? Trust me when I say there is more to your getting-healthy story than “Okay, flesh. This is it! Prepare for battle. I’m taking hold of self-control because this body is a temple. Jesus died for this body. And doggone it, nothing is impossible with God.”
In my twenty-five years in the wellness industry, I have yet to see gritting, grinding, and bearing down produce fruit. Results, yes. But fruit? The kind that nourishes, lasts, and can be multiplied? Nope.
As a woman who includes the body as one of the many ways God can bring the Kingdom near, I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to our relationship with the skin we are in. Outside the church, the pursuit of health looks like dedication, hard work, and a relentless hustle, too easily becoming self-centered and self-absorbed. Inside the church, it can look much the same, with an added strut in Jesus’ name—or, if we can’t seem to get it together, we label the body a distraction and believe God has bigger things to worry about than our bodies. But I promise you, there is a third way. It’s narrow, uncomfortable, and not popular yet, but it is the way that leads us to an abundant life. The kind that has no end.
The third way to getting healthy this year is this: Decide to follow Jesus into a life of holiness, not hotness. Follow Jesus and be willing to do the uncomfortable thing, not to gain His favor and love (or lose inches and weight), but because you are loved. Follow Him to grow the muscle of your mind, that you might know how loved you are and how much God loves the world. In Ephesians 3:17-19, the apostle Paul prays not just that we would know the infinite love of God but that we would have the strength to know. Without a strong and ready mind, we have no chance of knowing His love.
. . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. —Ephesians 3:17-19 (ESV)
People who know how loved they are by God are the strongest force for change on the earth.
If love is who God is and knowing His truth sets us free, every day we get to personally train with the God of all creation. We show up to learn what it means to carry truth and love so we can live, love, laugh, and grow in holiness. And nothing grows that isn’t under tension. Embrace the tension that surely will come when comfort foods consistently call your name or the mirror tries to mock you and tells you to put on shame. Shame off you, I say.
God takes a step, and we follow with our whole selves; with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls, and all our bodies are able to do, we follow. This year, follow God into holiness, which is just another way of saying wholeness; the ability to hold on to, carry, and pour out good.
Jesus took the holes in His body so we could be whole. His holes made us whole—fit to carry and give away a love that is good and true.
It seems the health-and-fitness craze will never be without customers as long as people confuse their quest for six-pack abs with their desire to be whole—to hold on to, carry, and give away goodness. Acquiring more, traveling more, scrolling more, eating more, and drinking more just won’t cut it. We hunger for more that will fill and feel good, when what we need is the peace that can only be found in relationship with God.
God is good. God is holy. And His goodness remains in the person who craves being whole. This year, instead of going for fit, ripped, or lean, go for healthy, whole (holy), and free.
Alisa Keeton is a wholehearted pursuer of God’s love. After more than twenty-five years as a fitness professional, Alisa launched Revelation Wellness. This nonprofit ministry uses fitness as a tool to spread the gospel message, inviting participants to become whole and live well. The Revelation Wellness instructor training program equips and sends out “fitness missionaries” throughout the United States and around the world, while RevWell TV brings faith-based online workouts and resources to anyone with Internet access.