If it’s so good for us, why don’t we do it?
If exercise is so good for us, why don’t we do it?
A parent asked me this as we walked off the training field on Saturday, the kids all smiles having just spent two hours running and stopping, sweating and breathing hard. Playing, in other words. (Don’t tell them it’s exercise.) The parent was a big proponent of exercise. Good for the body, mind and soul. And fun. “So,” he asked me, “why don’t more people do it?”
Cut to Sunday morning. The sanctuary is pretty full – it’s mother’s day after all – and the pastor has a prop to illustrate his point. It’s a miniature church under glass. He calls it the invisible dome. Church people, he suggests, enjoy the security inside. “Un-churched” folks look in from the outside and experience an invisible, but solid, barrier. He called it mystery, but I expect it has as much to do with history, experience and image. He didn’t say, but I wondered, how much it had to do with me. What have I done to erect the glass dome? Intentionally or otherwise. I mean, otherwise people would come streaming in, right? Because it does a person good.
Somehow that got me wondering about Saturday’s question. Is there a glass dome over exercise. What keep’s people from entering in? Here is where my wondering took me:
- Information alone doesn’t motivate.
- Telling me ‘I should’ makes me feel guilty and actually may decrease the chance I’ll act.
- New exercisers tend to be impulsive. They jump in, do too much, then quit.
- To see and feel a difference, exercise must be sustained. Slow and sure is out of fashion.
- Exercise used to be part of our lifestyle. Now it must be scheduled. We have very full schedules.
- Exercise is considered recreational (read: optional) and is left for “when I have time.”
- Knowing something and acting on it are two different things.
- Acting on it is easier when someone else does the motivating. Personal trainers are great if you can afford them.
- Self-motivation takes more than inspiration. (I will resist the urge to use the cliche: it takes perspiration)
- People may be inspired by fit people, but they are motivated by people who know their struggle and believe they can overcome it.
And there is the amazing wisdom of the revelation of God in Christ. That a God who is separate, one who hovers far away in a land called heaven, is inspiring but not motivating. Jesus the Christ, who suffered in life and died on a cross, now He knows my struggle. If I am willing He is more than able to do anything. That, I find motivating.
I don’t think people will exercise because “it’s good for them” any more than they will go to church because its good for their eternal soul. They go because they are invited, and they stay because once they’re there they meet people who suffer as they do. And are sustained in the effort, not by the future hope of runway model thin-ness or marathon prowess, but by the present reality that what they are doing feels healthy and right.
Kids start this because it’s scheduled for them. They stay when they find friends there that make it fun. Even when it’s hard. Running, stopping, sweating, breathing hard, even the teens beg me, “Can we play that just one more time. Please?”
Who in the world would choose suffering to bring us together? Someone who knows us.