Overwhelmed by the thought of spiritual disciplines? You’re not alone. Read my journey about transitioning from physically fit to spiritually fit by getting in the word.
People who meet me now in my forties see me as a fairly disciplined person. I work out regularly, read my Bible daily, stick with my commitments and am willing to try all sorts of new health behaviors (if only for a few months) to see if I can bio-hack my body and improve my overall wellbeing. I’m looking at you mouth taping, the Carnivore Diet, quitting coffee, home cupping, using grounding sheets and more—many of which have been heavily researched and influenced by my husband.
In my youth, my parents helped to instill beneficial habits in me, such as personal hygiene, cleaning my room and bathroom, staying active and more. Of course, once I left home and headed to college—under self supervision—some of the habits I’d adopted or been encouraged to implement in my teens faltered. In fact, I began a science experiment to see just how long I could go without cleaning my bathroom in college.
But one habit that continued in college—and dare I say flourished—was working out regularly. No longer playing high school sports, I sought my university’s wellness center with a habit of consistency that surprised even myself. I developed a love for the realm of physical fitness, which I later realized not only trained my body, but my mind as well, offering endorphins, stress release and mental focus.
After college, my fitness regime continued as I joined private gyms in Atlanta to frequent after my work day ended. A couple years later, I got married and within months my husband opened a CrossFit gym, so my workout consistency continued for another decade.
No matter the city I lived in, the various options of gyms, whether I worked full time with a commute or the ages of my four kids, I made working out a priority in my life. It was a discipline I developed in my late teens and it’s been a constant that’s carried me through decades of life.
Don’t Be Fooled
I wish I could say the same for the health of my spiritual life. I wish I could say I treated it with the daily consistency and eagerness that I exemplified in the gym. I wish I could tell you my spiritual maturity bloomed in my twenties and took over the garden in which I was planted. I wish I could tell you of this beautiful detour-free journey of faith that traveled straight into the spiritual horizon.
But I got things backwards.
I didn’t take the road less traveled, the one that orients straight into the horizon of the Son. I took my own road, full of potholes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. By the grace of God, I kept heading in the right overall direction, but there was an easier route, had I been willing to stick with it.
My spiritual journey in my adult life (since college) has ebbed and flowed. I’ve succumbed to the lure of complacency instead of spiritual growth, compartmentalized my sin so I didn’t have to deal with it, ignored the promptings of the Holy Spirit, wrongly prioritized temporal things and allowed busyness to rule my life.
In effect, these potholes made my faith journey a bumpy ride over the years. They paused my spiritual growth, sidelined my reading of the word and caused me to elevate my own selfish desires.
Sometimes, a simple nudge from a trusted friend was all it took to get back on the road. Other times, I sat there waiting for roadside assistance to fix my flat tire, not realizing all along that I had the tools necessary (hello Bible and Holy Spirit) to get back on the road again.
But distraction does that to a person. It causes you to miss what’s right in front of you because you’re so focused on the chaos around you. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite ways to sidetrack our faith journey, knowing how apt we are to justify our actions and confuse our true needs and wants.
Don’t get me wrong, over the years I still attended church regularly and participated in Women’s Bible studies. But I wasn’t flexing my spiritual muscles the way I should have to develop progressing spiritual growth.
I did just enough to get by.
I enjoyed many instructor-led Bible studies, where both the author and the in-person teacher of the study were feeding me small bites along my spiritual journey that helped me stay afloat. But I wasn’t seeking the Lord on my own each day. I wasn’t piecing together everything I’d learned during my Christian walk. I didn’t have a hunger to read God’s word on my own consistently. Admittedly, my devotion waned as much as that of the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness.
Finally, in my mid-thirties, it all came to a head. Conviction over my lack of desire and follow-through hit me hard. I realized that—age-wise—I was well on my way to being considered an older woman, while still acting like a younger woman. Paul writes:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.Titus 2:3-5
Watching someone work out at the gym may motivate you to get moving, but you still have to do the work. In the same way, it was time to exercise my spiritual muscles without relying so heavily on other trainers of the word.
Instead, I needed to buckle down, commit and follow through. I needed to go straight to the source so I could move on from small bites to the solid food of faith (1 Cor. 3:2).
Throughout much of my life, I elevated physical health above spiritual health, prioritizing temporality over eternality.
Thankfully, God, has a way of drawing His people back to him despite their wandering hearts of self-centeredness, complacency, repeated sin and misaligned priorities. Just look at how many times he redeemed the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. Look at how he sent a whale to rescue Jonah after he ignored God’s command to go to Nineveh. Look at the parable of the Prodigal’s son, whose father welcomed him with open arms after he squandered his inheritance. Look at Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus after months of persecuting Christians.
In the same way—despite millennia later—God pursued me, undeterred by my shortcomings and commitments that fell flat. Using what I knew first-hand of temporal consistency (working out), He beckoned me to apply it to my spiritual consistency.
By the time I was quiet enough to listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God reminded me that discipline breeds discipline. I knew first-hand the process of creating new habits, what it took to stick to them and the effect or benefit of healthy behaviors. It was time to use my worldly habits for divine good and turn them into spiritual disciplines.
Discipline Breeds Discipline
In His sovereignty, God used my love and discipline of working out as a way to draw me back to him—consistently. He used my misconstrued priorities to transition me to eternal priorities. He used the habits I’d developed going to the gym each day for His glory in bringing me to His word each day.
So I began waking up at 5 a.m. every single day to read and study the word—a good hour before my kids wake up for school. Committing to read the Bible at a certain time each day was the first step I took on my path to spiritual growth.
Instead of relying only on the sustenance from spiritual leaders in the church, He gave me the desire to consistently study His word direct from the source. Instead of relying on a women’s study about the Bible to boost my spiritual growth, He convicted me to read the word myself—daily.
And through this daily discipline of reading the Bible, God has taken what I thought I would gain from reading His word and multiplied it.
- He’s reoriented my focus off myself and given me a hunger to know him more—His character, His attributes and His promises.
- He’s convicted me, not just in big noticeable mistakes, but in small hidden internal sins and omissions.
- He’s shown me how His chosen people messed up again and again, but He still used them in His sovereign plan.
- He’s shown me what the true heart of a Christian servant looks like and how to live a life worthy of the calling.
- He’s given me the raised brow of discernment, questioning cultural untruths and misuses of scripture that seek to make the Gospel lukewarm.
- He’s revealed tools for resisting the crouching-in-waiting enemy and how to stand strong against opposition.
- He’s shown me that the Bible is an amazing way to be sanctified in the truth, because God’s word is truth.
- He’s given me an untouchable confidence in Him and a desire to be more bold for Him.
- He’s reaffirmed my obedience to Him by slowly showing me His plan for my life, even when He asks me to do something out of my comfort zone.
Looking back over the last few years, it’s quite startling to think I could have missed all of this had I not finally submitted and obeyed. I could have continued on the path of surface-level Bible learning or focused only on studying narrow portions of scripture or simply waited to read the Bible until it fit into my schedule easily. Back then, I could have told you what I believed, but I couldn’t necessarily have told you where to find that theology or doctrine in the Bible itself.
So often, we forget how good we really have it.
We forget that Bibles have only been mass produced for a few centuries and weren’t brought to America until the mid-1600s.
We forget that we don’t have to wait until Sundays at church to hear the word of God. We can access it daily in a host of forms.
Dare I say we even forget that the veil of the Tabernacle was torn (Matt. 27:51) when Christ died, giving us access to the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-33), so that we now can enter the presence of God anytime.
Draw Near to God
It’s amazing how much my life has changed in just a few short years once I started reading the Bible consistently, every single day. I’ve learned so much—and there is still so much more to learn about God and His word.
As tempting as it is to become legalistic about spiritual disciplines, I’ve found that reading the Bible every day—even on days when I’m tired, distracted, hurried, unfocused—is my mode of daily submission to God. I come to Him as I am (with all my human flaws), expectant of Him and His word.
James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” and I am a living testament to this verse. God meets me every single morning while I’m sitting in my comfy chair, coffee beside me, Bible in front of me, reading the words He breathed out and prompted man to pen down.
If you’ve felt the urge to read your Bible more or you want to rely less on others interpreting the Bible for you, I encourage you to try something new. Choose to read James or Genesis without the help of a study or commentary. Or even commit to read the whole Bible in a year (roughly 15 minutes a day) to get a better understanding of God’s plan for reconciling humanity through Christ.
And one truth that I love to reflect on as I’m reading the Bible, especially harder passages to understand: God’s word never returns void. (Isaiah 55:11) I love the concept of how reading God’s word shouldn’t be like a debit account, where we withdraw an answer only when we need it. Instead, reading the Bible is like making small daily deposits into a savings account, which adds up over a lifetime.