I’ve been a faithful exerciser for more than 20 years. Almost without fail, I have gone to a gym, grabbed the dumbbells at home, hit the pool, gone for a run, taken a class or jumped rope—six days a week. As such, I know what it means to “listen to your body,” but that’s easier said than done.
Whether it’s at the track, in the gym or the privacy of my living room, a little voice often whispers in my ear: “Just an other 10 minutes, your back won’t hurt tomorrow—I’m sure of it.” Or, “Just tie your sneakers and go, forget that your heel has bugged you for weeks. Do you want the rest of the runners to think you’re a wimp?” One more, “Did you hear her say that she’s training for an Iron Man? You better up your game!”
In the world of workouts, I call that little voice “competition,” and he’s not always healthy. He’s gotten me injured and he’s gotten me irritated with others. He’s fed my pride and leveled my self-esteem. Listening to my body is so much harder than listening to the voice of competition.
At the risk of comparing my mortal body to the Holy Spirit, I wonder: is listening to my body isn’t similar to trying to listen to the Holy Spirit?
When it comes to attending to the still, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, there are always louder voices. And, ironically enough, the loudest one is closely related to competition—pride.
How many times have I prayed and asked for guidance in a situation—okay, pretended to pray, all the while wracking my human brain for the most effective, painless solution? Instead of hearing the soft whisper of my Father through a quiet moment in His Word, or the gentle suggestion from a friend, I tend more often to “lean unto my own understanding.” Why?
For one, the loudest voice is the most clearly heard. Without constant practice, my own voice in my head will always be the first one I hear. We know from numerous stories in the Bible that God often shows up quietly—He came in dreams to Mary and Joseph, He whispered quietly to Elijah in the cave. Like a wise parent, God will rarely yell at us. Instead, He patiently, consistently repeats His truth until our hard heads (and hearts) are softened.
When I’m in the gym, I have to tune into my own body—its wordless hints to rest–over the cacophony outside me screaming: “be the strongest, go the longest!” Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.” For those of us who know the Lord, who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, that voice comes from deep inside. On a gut level, we know the truth, we understand the instruction of our Lord.
How do we begin to hear the voice of the Lord over the shrill voice of pride?
The first thing is to get away from the other noises. Go somewhere quiet to limit the number of distracting voices. When I need to listen to my body, it’s best if I leave the gym, where I’m watching everyone else workout, and turn inward to hear my own body speak.
Second, learn to recognize the voice of the Lord. When we spend time in His Word, we begin to know instinctively what He will say about a matter. Because I’ve overtrained before, I am familiar with the hints of my body—a sore lower back, a headache, tight hips …
I think it’s amazing how God has drawn so many parallels between our relationship with Him and the world around us. Jesus taught many things using simple, real-life examples with real human bodies, real dirt and seeds, tangible coins and birds. If we will find the quiet space to listen, if we will spend enough time with Him that we learn His voice, we will hear Him first. Then, we can follow Him and we will prosper in His wake.
“And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.”
What voice is the loudest in your heart right now?