Typical January—the gyms are packed. People are wearing their stylish new work out clothes and sporting their new running or cycling shoes. It is resolution time—and one of the biggies for most people is for their physical health. We create lofty resolutions. We are going to lose weight, add muscle (“gains”), exercise daily, sign up for a gym membership, quit smoking, drink and eat less, and the list goes on. These are good. We want to be physically healthy as it affects all areas of our lives. But many of these goals taper off within a few weeks or a few months. Making exercise and fitness a commitment and lifestyle is tough for many. I get it—we have full time jobs, kids, a social life, volunteer commitments….and pretty soon we are too tired to work out before or after work. Going to happy hour becomes more appealing than going to spin class. I admit that I am one who sets physical goals each year as well. But I have always been a person who makes my work outs a part of my daily routine. I don’t just go in January and February, but make it a pattern of my life. I run, hike, take spin and yoga classes, and try to cross train so I am balanced and strong. My husband got me a Fitbit for Christmas—it is a fitness tracker that tracks my steps, miles, distance, calories, floors, and even my sleep cycle. I love it, but it is eye opening. It pushes me to walk, hike, and run more and make my distance goals for the day. (It encourages 10,000 steps per day which is about 4.5 miles). You would be surprised how much you walk in a day even without adding a run or hike to your regimen. But as I look daily at my “steps accomplished” on my tracker, I realize that I don’t look enough at my true “heart fitness.” I may be looking at my heart fitness physically, but what about my heart fitness in terms of how I think, what I say, what I focus on, how I judge, how I feel about and treat others.? My heart is in need of some fitness tracking. My goals shouldn’t just be physical, but mental, emotional and spiritual as well.
How do I fitness train my heart? My thinking, my rampant thoughts, my ideas and perceptions, my stereotypes, my attitudes, and my tolerance and patience levels? I know it is easy to set goals and resolutions—to get in shape, to get more organized, to spend less, to plan more family time. These are measurable and tangible and can be evidenced in a physical way. But our heart? The state of our heart? How do we measure our true heart fitness? How do we become one who has a pure heart? One who loves more and judges less. One who focuses on the good and the lovely and not the bad and the evil? The Bible tells us to guard our hearts. The Bible teaches us how to have heart fitness.
“And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—then the God of peace will be with you. “ Philippians 4: 8-9
There is instruction in there. “Fix my thoughts.” “Put into practice.” Those are things we do with physical goals, but this is about the heart—the attitude. I wish it were easy, but it is not. I want to….but I don’t. Social media has bombarded us with the thoughts of everyone under the sun. People on Instagram, Snap chat and Twitter don’t have filters. They take a picture, make a comment, and hit “send” or “post” and haven’t really thought through the effects that post or picture might have on themselves or others. We turn on the news and hear of a child thrown off a bridge by her dad, and freedom of speech and the press being attacked by extremist gunmen, of human trafficking, and another actor or singer dying of an overdose. This is what we adults and our kids are exposed to—constantly. How can we guard our hearts, and think on the lovely? It takes effort, discipline, and change--just like physical exercise. I have to constantly work on changing my attitude, I have to choose what I will look at on social media, who I need to stop “following”, what “links” I go to, and how I spend my time being exposed to any kind of media. Now I am not saying that I need to live in a bubble (though a house on a lake in Maine with lots of books and blankets sounds mighty fine). But we do have control of our thoughts and our hearts and our mindset and our attitude. We do have control of what we choose to watch and listen to and who we choose to associate with. There is so much toxicity in our world—and we can make the choice to avoid that and surround ourselves with loveliness. We can choose not to engage in banter or gossip or judgment or altercation.
But we can’t do it alone. To change our heart is a daily surrender, a daily decision. For me, it is to give my heart fully to Christ, for He alone can change my heart, my soul, and my attitude. A heart changing verse that I focus on is from the Old Testament—God gives us the new heart, the new spirit. It is not by our will alone and can never be.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. --Ezekiel 36: 26.
As I have stated many times in other posts, I must look to the tattoo on my forearm daily with the verse Romans 12: 1-2 imprinted upon my flesh. It reminds me to “not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
My pastor shared this Sunday that “worship” is a pattern of life. As we are all setting goals this January, maybe our focus should be less on the outward and the physical changes, but more on the inward, heart changes. Maybe we can exercise our heart and attitude muscles by cutting out things that cause us to think without reason or care or kindness.
Yes, I have a fitness tracker on my wrist. I can’t fake it or make it show more miles, calories or steps. But my heart fitness tracker? My mind and attitude fitness tracker? Now that takes a lot more work than just going to a spin class or running an extra mile. It takes spiritual discipline and it starts with focusing not on my heart, but on the heart of God. When I focus on Jesus, and what He has done for me, I respond with a sense of awe and wonder, and my heart immediately begins to soften. When I focus on Him-- my thoughts, desires, and attitudes draw near to His heart.
It may not be physical or tangible in inches or pounds, but I pray that my heart fitness grows healthier this year. My daily goal is to have a heart that yearns for God, and when I do, I hope that my renewed heart changes not only my life, but those around me.