Bill used to say that exercise made him feel better. He was very devoted to it, going to the gym even through chemotherapy. Calling to cancel his gym membership was a clear sign that the end was near and he knew it. His gym pass is one of the useless things I haven’t been able to throw away.
It would have been nice if, among all the things he taught me, Bill had been able to teach me to enjoy exercise. I hate it. It doesn’t make me feel better at all. Now, you may be thinking that I simply haven’t done it enough, but that is not true. Even when I ran track in high school I hated being hot and sweaty and getting blisters on my feet. What on earth is fun about that? I could run fast, but I could drive faster and didn’t feel crappy and dirty when I arrived.
Still, I know that exercise is important. I find myself caring less and less about the 10 pounds I need to lose, but more and more about remaining active and agile as my body ages. To do this, I need to exercise, perhaps not as religiously as Bill did but far more than I do now.
No one has ever accused me of being afraid of hard work, nor of avoiding the difficult or even the painful. So why is this so hard? Why do I hate it so? There are many things I do regularly that I hate, like ironing my shirts and cleaning the toilet. Why is this so different?
Perhaps I hate to exercise because I’m not doing it to build muscle so there isn’t much evidence that it’s doing me much good, and it certainly isn’t helping anyone else. Still, there are many things I do that don’t have visible results, like worship, study, and prayer. I can’t prove those things are strengthening my soul, but I wonder who I would become without them. I exercise my faith because it helps me become healthier and keeps my soul from becoming a shriveled, self-serving center. It isn’t as much as who I become through faithful exercise as who spiritual exercise keeps me from becoming.
Like physical exercise, we may not see the results, but a quick look around the world provides plenty of examples of what a human being becomes when they are disconnected from the Source of Life itself. We quickly become stiff, inflexible, and self-absorbed. Avoiding that is reason enough to exercise.
I’m not allergic to hard work, but I hate to sweat. So, I’ll quit sweating the small stuff and exercise my soul so it will be flexible and strong enough to help others with the big stuff.
Rev. Michael Piazza