Exercise and Motives

It’s snowing in Boston…again.

In fact, it hasn’t stopped snowing. We have officially received over 60.8 inches within the past 30 days, breaking the record for snowfall set in 1978 (http://www.wcvb.com). It’s been insane…and cold…and wet…and kind of annoying.

You see, I’m from Texas, which means a multitude of things, but mainly, it means I’m used to warm weather. It also means I’m not used to snow blocking my sidewalk, burying my car, or keeping me indoors for hours on end. I’m not used to my gym being closed or having to put eight layers on before I venture outside. The struggle is real, y’all. And if I’m being honest, it’s awful.

Because of the things mentioned above, I have been running the stairs of our apartment complex for exercise. It’s gross outside, my gym is closed, and I need something to do, so why not?

This morning, I rolled out of bed, did some laundry, and then contemplated what I was going to do with the rest of my day. School was cancelled again, but I still had a couple of hundred pages to read for my class tomorrow. On top of that, I was incredibly tired and did not feel well. Still, out of habit, I veered toward my athletic shorts. As I contemplated running the stairs (again), a feeling of dread began to drift over me. As I put my shorts on, I stopped to think:

Why am I doing this?

Sure, I need exercise, but I don’t feel well at all.

I pushed forward and put on my tennis shoes.

Okay…really…why am I doing this?

I mean, I have worked out every day for the past two weeks. Do I really need to exercise today when I don’t feel well, and I am behind on school work?!

As I reached for my ear buds, I heard my sister’s voice inside of my head telling me exercise won’t save me, and I took my shoes off.

As many of you know, I struggled with an eating disorder and addiction to exercise for nine years of my life. Because of this, I have had to set up some pretty stern boundaries around exercise and food. With food, the rules are decently clear – eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and focus on food with nutritional content understanding that moderation is important. With exercise, however, my boundaries are extremely motivationally based, and are therefore a little hazier.

I mean, motives themselves can be hazy. Why do we do the things we do? Are we doing them for ourselves? For others? Or a mixture of both?

Anyways, this all leads me to my point…

Motives are powerful.

They lead us to make decisions about whom to date, whom to hang out with, what activities to pursue, and how to spend our free time. They help us decipher which colleges to attend, which jobs to take, and whether or not we should have kids. These things are good, perhaps, but they can also push us in some weird directions, if we are not careful.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you dating that guy or that girl? Why are you hanging out with that group of friends? Why do you spend your time pursuing the activities that you do? What is your goal?

During my recovery, I realized my addiction to exercise and my obsession with calories was rooted in my desire to be accepted. I wanted others to approve of how I looked, and I thought that if I felt accepted by others, I would feel okay about myself.

Basically, I realized that wrong motives can turn good things into bad things.

I think to some extent we have all realized this.

Ice cream is great until we seek it for comfort and we eat too much. Pushing our kids to do well in school is the right thing to do, but then we realize we are doing it because it makes us look good, too. We date, which is normal, but then we realize we are dating some guy, even though he’s not the best, because we are fearful of being alone.

It happens. Motives move us.

I don’t know where you are. You may be making wonderful decisions based upon relatively good motives, and are enjoying the freedom that involves. But I think I’m safe in saying, most of us aren’t there. In fact, many of us are probably doing things in order to be accepted, loved, comforted, appreciated, affirmed, or praised and feel trapped because we fear losing the acceptance, love, comfort, appreciation, affirmation, and praise those things bring us, if we were to stop.

Again, the struggle is real.

Every day I have to remind myself that I’m accepted by the one whose acceptance really matters (Galatians 3:26, Psalm 139, Psalm 27:10, Ephesians 1:13-14). I have to remind myself that He is a God of comfort, (John 16:33, Romans 15:13, Philippians 4:6-7), and that He provides life (Isaiah 44:1-3, Acts 17:25, John 1:3-4).

Two things last forever: the hearts of men and the word of God.

Your motives may lead you to seek a variety of things thinking that they will save you – they will give you acceptance, true meaning, or whatever.

The problem is the things won’t last, and they won’t fix you.

Your Lamborghini is going to break. Your hair will gray. Your skin will sag. Plastic surgery will stop working. Your money may lose its value. Your kids will grow up.

Then what?

Motives are powerful – and sometimes they push us to find meaning in things that were never intended to provide it.

What are you banking on? Why are you banking on it? Will it last forever?

For nine years I believed looking a certain way was the answer. I thought it would give me meaning and the acceptance I was looking for. Today, I can still struggle with believing that lie. But the truth is no matter how hard I try, no matter how strong the motives…

Exercise can’t save me. It was never designed to.

***Special thanks to Pete Briscoe and his sermon over idols for reminding me to think though my own.***

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