For Lent this year I have taken on the spiritual commitment to workout regularly at a gym. If the body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, then I'm afraid this temple needs a capital campaign! As I get older I find that I can no longer just rely on my body to take care of itself like it once did.
There was a time when I could eat whatever I wanted without consequence, but those days are gone. Now I find that the spiritual virtues of self-control, abstinence, and faithfulness are required if I want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What happened? Is this the mid-life equivalent of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden? We are told that because of man's disobedience, we are fated to work for our lot with perpetual toil and effort. "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This seems harsh, but some commentators have pointed out that work is not necessarily a punishment for disobedience, but simply a feature of the new relationship God established between humanity and the earth in response to sin. The new ecology of creation requires us to get a little dirt under our fingernails to keep us honest and humble.
Life has many situations like this: once easy endeavors that require our commitment to maintain. Yet we are hardly more ourselves than when we are engaged in our vocations. Work makes us strong, lively, and engaged. I remember fondly how my grandfather, when he was old, seemed to be "loosing it" at home, but at his law office he was still as sharp and clever as he ever was. Therefore we should take on our commitments as the blessings they are, receiving the curse of long hours at the gym with the blessings of good health and vitality.
Gracious God, you have created us as partners in creation, tasking us with fruitful work that completes our humanity and enriches the world. Help us, we pray, to maintain our commitments with patience and persistence in the face of discouragement and exhaustion. Banish from us all laziness as we seek to perfect ourselves in your image and fill us with courage and fidelity all the days of our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.