Life and Culture

Church, Prayer and the Gym

How long does it take to burn off 5 pounds of fat? I have to do 90 minutes of moderately vigorous cardio for 5 days a week and a defined set of muscle building exercises for 3 days a week. I have to limit my calorie intake to 1200-1500 a day and I have to ensure that I get enough vitamins and minerals.

Honestly, it’s annoying. I want to eat a whole pizza, a cheeseburger meal and a whole cake in just one sitting.

But you know, when I do that, I find that I can’t finish such a horrible meal. Last Sunday we went to IHOP and I ordered a chicken fajita omelet with a side of buttermilk pancakes but couldn’t finish more than half of my meal. Meanwhile my companions wolfed down steak, several pancakes topped with whipped cream and drowning in syrup (our table almost used up the jug of strawberry syrup and someone wanted to take the jug with her). I looked on and remembered the time when I could eat like them.

The next day, I wanted to do extra gym hours to burn off the extra calories, but I found that my body automatically adjusted by eating less. I was happy with a small bowl of oatmeal, an egg sandwich, and some Japanese style veggie pancakes (like an okonomiyaki) made with lots of cabbage and mung bean sprouts (which is an unfortunate combination because it makes me fart a lot, but I happen to love the taste of cabbage and beans). That was all I had that day. I must have eaten only 700 calories but I still completed my 90 minute cardio workout and all my crunches and push-ups.

When I sigh about how hard it is to lose my last pounds of fat, I remind myself that I used to have a 38 inch waistline and was 20 pounds overweight. I’m no Olympian but I’ve come a long way. In total, I lost 8 inches around my waist and 15 pounds. I’m fitter and my body is firmer.

So it is with church and prayer. We are so used to instant results that we expect God to immediately grant our prayer requests after a month or so of constant begging. Gym and food discipline have taught me that the best results are those which are achieved after months of hard work. It isn’t just about losing the weight and having a slim waist, is it? I am more proud of my discipline towards food and my fitness level than my waistline.

Of course, I don’t mean we should just be happy with being fit and never care about achieving a more attractive waistline, nor do I mean we should be happy with just praying even if we never get what we ask from God. We still want what we want. My point here is we achieve something else when we work for something. If I resorted to slimming shakes and fat-burning pills instead of going to the gym and watching what I ate, I won’t be as disciplined, as fit and as strong. I’d probably end up wolfing down a platter full of steak and eggs washed down with a jug of pancake syrup then finish the day with diet pills and laxatives. Not good.

Similarly, if God immediately grants me what I ask from Him, I’d be happy one moment then be lax about church and prayer the next. I won’t receive the graces God gives from daily prayer and regular church-going. I’d be like a spoiled child, unappreciative of what her parents do for her.

So I keep doing my crunches and push-ups, eating my veggie pancakes and oatmeal and saying my prayers. There is an end to all of this in heaven when I finally don’t have a body to keep healthy and can just focus on the joy of seeing God face to face. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy my slimmer waist and my fitter body and my serene church-going self.

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