29 Sep Soul Exercise
Discipline has never been my forte. I prefer to identify as free-spirit driven, or self-control challenged. I’m not one of those crazies like my best friend who pops eagerly out of bed at 5:30am when someone suggests a 10-mile jog (Why would you do that yourself?). Or my husband who has the work ethic of an Amish plough horse. When he wants to do something, he decides to do it. And then does it. And he keeps doing it. Until it’s done.
To me, this ability borders on the miraculous. And to be honest, I get a little jealous. Don’t misunderstand me, I consider my free-spiritedness a strength in many capacities. I switch gears quickly. I’m spontaneous, I bring energy and excitement to new ideas and decisions. I’m just not great at following up on those decisions—at starting tasks and completing them. My husband, however, is an expert.
So since discipline is obviously his forte, when we realized we both wanted to be healthier, we decided we would do it together. We came up with our list of goals—only drink water at meals during the week and do some form of exercise three times a week (And no, that doesn’t include my pre-awake ab-crunch regimine when attempting to get out of bed, or my race to the kitchen to pour caffeine into my body the second the coffee is ready). As excited as I was about sit-ups and bar bells and protein shakes, there was a nagging doubt at the back of my brain about my ability to follow through, to be disciplined. But despite my skepticism, it’s turned out better than I expected.
“I need community; I need people around me to fill my weakness with their strength.”
I realized that under discipline, my body flourishes. You might think, “Well yes, of course, that’s common sense,” but in a moment of discipline it doesn’t feel like I’m flourishing. And for someone who tests 100 percent feeler on the Myers Briggs personality scale, how I feel in a moment shouts much louder in my frontal cortex than any amount of logic or common sense. When I’m halfway into my run and my legs are aching and my lungs are on fire and my brain is screaming “Is this form of torture really necessary?”, it’s incredibly difficult not to end the whole show right there. But—the next day, I feel stronger. My endurance increases. I flourish.
I also discovered a main reason why I continue running in those moments is because I know I’m being held accountable. There’s someone I have to answer to (my husband) when I come home. I am ten times as likely to sweat through the ab ripper 347 workout if we do it together. I need community; I need people around me to fill my weakness with their strength.
Of course, as in all aspects of life, these truths permeate the physical into the spiritual. No surprise here, I’ve always struggled with spiritual disciplines. Scripture reading plans immediately ignite a guilty conscience because I rarely complete them. I memorize verses when I feel like it, when I have time. But just like my physical health, when I am disciplined enough to read consistently, to fill myself with Truth, I flourish. And when I surround myself with community, when I study a book with a friend or commit to read for a certain amount of time everyday, I’m ten times as likely to follow through because I’m being held accountable.
“But just like my physical health, when I am disciplined enough to read consistently, to fill myself with Truth, I flourish.”
I don’t think discipline will ever be my forte. Just like muscles being trained, I might increase the number of miles I can run at a time, but I’m never going to be a marathon champion. My ability to be disciplined might strengthen over time, but it’s a trait I believe I’ll always struggle with. And that’s okay. Because in God’s great goodness, not only is there grace for my weakness, but as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His power works best in weakness. I see this power, this sovereignty, not only in the kindness of providing a spouse who is strong where I am weak, but also in the power of community and how our unique abilities support and challenge each other to be more like Himself.
What an encouraging truth.
Abby Moore Keith
Abby is the lucky wife of Sam Keith, and works as a nanny and writer for TOWN Magazine. She fulfills her millennial stereotype by frequenting artsy coffee shops, listening to obscure music, eating local, and chasing new outdoor adventures, currently manifested in the form of rock climbing. Abby attends our Downtown campus.