One day it hit me. Here I was, a family man with a wonderful wife, two young girls, a nice home, and a satisfying career. But somehow I’d let my body go south. I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I couldn’t walk up the stairs without feeling out of breath. I even avoided playing outside with my girls.
But I’d recently experienced a lot of spiritual growth through my study of Christian Science, which had resulted in a permanent healing of recurring migraines, improved employment, and confidence in public speaking. So I saw this situation as another opportunity for prayer.
My prayers began with an idea from the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible, where God creates man in His own image, wholly good. Since God is Spirit, the image of God must be spiritual. That means God doesn’t see us as lumps of matter, but as His children, or spiritual reflection: balanced, complete, even beautiful. It was my sincere desire to see that spiritual man, too.
Around this time a coworker suggested we look into running a marathon, even though neither of us was a runner. I began to see this as an answer to my prayers. Just when I was beginning to pray more deeply about my spiritual identity, here was an opportunity to explore my God-given ability to express freedom of movement, stamina, activity, joy, and balance. So I registered for the Houston Marathon.
I began an intensive training program, which provided many opportunities to meet limitations head on. But I prayed daily to see this not as an exercise to lose weight or will myself to run a marathon, but as an avenue to glorify God.
Within a month I began to see changes. I stopped walking past the mirror and checking out my body. I became much more concerned with conforming my thoughts to God’s conception of me. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains: “To divest thought of false trusts and material evidences in order that the spiritual facts of being may appear, – this is the great attainment by means of which we shall sweep away the false and give place to the true. Thus we may establish in truth the temple, or body, ‘whose builder and maker is God’ ” (p. 428).
Soon, I just naturally started eating more balanced meals. And instead of daily trips to buffet restaurants, I would often enjoy a brief run during my lunch hour. This provided time for quiet prayer. With each stride, I would remind myself of the spiritual qualities – such as joy, balance, and integrity – that make up everyone’s true being as God’s spiritual offspring.
“Exercising” my spiritual stamina actually translated into more endurance with my physical activities – and that often meant running early in the morning, working long hours at my job, and then spending time with my family. These activities didn’t tire me out, but rather fueled me as I saw my life lining up with God’s view of me.
I did run the Houston Marathon successfully, and I went on to train for many more.
But then I found myself slipping onto the other side of the spectrum. I began to pay more and more attention to how certain foods would affect my running. Ironically, this regimen actually sapped my energy, and I lost more weight than was healthy. Above all, my focus shifted from the spiritual back to a material view of myself.
In humility, I asked God to guide my steps in all things, including what I ate and how I thought about it. I realized my enjoyment of running wasn’t fueled by food or caloric intake, but by the spiritual qualities I was recognizing more fully in my experience. For instance, I was more structured, disciplined, and joyous than I’d been in a long time. And these qualities had spilled over into my personal life, benefiting my family and me in tangible ways.
With this desire to let God lead me, my rigid calorie counting and portion policing naturally stopped. Soon my weight stabilized, too.
Today, years later, I still enjoy being active. But my focus isn’t on a regimen or on maintaining a certain weight. Instead, step by step, I’m seeing how every facet of my experience can conform to God. My goal is to see the divine hand in all things. And that’s a finish line I’m proud to cross.
Adapted from a testimony published in the July 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal.