Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On spiritual flabbiness

I am not currently in my best physical form, but I have been an athlete for most of my life, and being fit has normally come fairly easily to me when I pursue it.  If I follow "the program"--eat reasonably well and exercise--my results are generally what you might expect them to be. I get what I was promised: my body is relatively thin and toned. (I see you looking over at my picture. Not fair! Look how new my baby was!)

I used to assume that people whose bodies didn't look "fit" were probably not really trying hard enough. Maybe they were cutting corners, sneaking too many treats, exercising too casually. Ultimately, they just didn't want fitness as much as I did. Right?

Well, then I opened up my tiny little mind and realized that not everyone is just like me.  Some people came into this world with different physical dispositions and challenges. I realized that there are a lot of people who follow "the program" even more closely than I do and they just won't ever be thin and toned. It's just not in their physical make-up. They could pay a personal trainer all the money in the world, but they will always be subject to the limits of the body they were born with.

Someone like Gillian Michaels is clearly very disciplined. She works her tail off and follows "the program". But she also has the optimal genetic make-up to participate in a fitness program and sculpt a beautifully fit body. Other people can follow the same fitness program, with the same devotion, and their shape will always be lumpy and awkward.

Well, friends, I'm kind of eternally lumpy in the faith department. Some people follow the program and it works just as it says it will. They read their scriptures, pray, obey the commandments, attend their meetings, choose to believe...and they develop sure testimonies. It. Just. Works. But me? I could pay a personal spiritual trainer all the money in the world and I will still be a doubter. I could have Elder Holland himself as my personal buddy and I will never catch his conviction.

And sometimes I think it gets harder--not easier--as time goes on. The more babies I have and the older I get, the harder it becomes to achieve the physical results that used to come so easily. The burdens of age and real physical strain (like pregnancy!) accumulate and start to feel very heavy. Time and experience take a toll. Physical and spiritual challenges add up. Simply put, being on this earth longer just makes things complicated.

So why bother?

Why should Lumpy McFlabbyArms go to the trouble of following a program that will simply never deliver its promised results? Why work as hard as, or even harder than, Sexy von SixPack if she's going to remain forever flabby? And why should Doubty von Faithless go to the trouble of following the gospel program when she will likely never develop the kind of testimony it promises? After all, following these programs requires some serious time and effort.

I think both things are worth it. Because even though Lumpy McFlabbyArms will never look like Gillian Michaels, she will certainly be much better off, inside and out, for having followed the program than she ever would have been without it. In the same way, following the gospel program will benefit people like me, even if we are never able to develop "real" testimonies of it. It will still make us better people, strengthen our families, and enrich our lives.

*This post was inspired by a conversation with my wise and beautiful cousin Rebekah.


  1. Every time I read your blog, I am just in awe! You make complete sense! Thanks for your honesty and willingness to share your thoughts.

  2. St. Therese of Liseux followed a rigorous spiritual program praying only for a beatific vision of God....and never getting an answer for her prayer. But she had an entire life lived in faithfulness and hope. McFlabby here.

  3. I have read many accounts of long time Buddhist nuns and monks, ones who meditate hours a day, perform rites, follow the proper diets, etc., who claim to have never experienced particular meditative states, or can't access dream yoga. Similarly to yogis. I've met many who's yoga and sitting meditation practice is consistent and diligently executed, but still can barely sit still or touch their toes. I have no idea why all of this is, but it is. These people keep coming back to their mats or their shrines and work with themselves. They show up and do the work, and that is where the honey is, showing up and looking at yourself. So I believe. :)

    1. I think this is beautiful, and beautifully said by you. The idea of dedication to a "program" you believe in but that isn't necessarily giving you the results you are seeking is inspiring. Much more inspiring, frankly, than someone standing up and saying with conviction that they know something, that their results have already been found.

  4. Not to throw a wrench into your analogy, but Jillian was obese most of her life. We're talking 180 pounds in 8th grade. So I'd say that illustrates a point that you can indeed change your nature, or your proclivity for spirituality, with enough work. But the point remains that it's still a tougher road for some people. We're not all spiritually wired the same.

    1. Just because she was obese before becoming fit doesn't mean she doesn't have the right genetic makeup to eventually achieve a really fit body. She followed "the program" and it worked. She didn't necessarily change her physical make up, she changed her habits and that change, combined with her physical makeup, produced that awesome body. The fact that she was formerly very obese just proves how well the program can work...for some people. Because I definitely know overweight people who work out like crazy and eat very well, and they struggle and struggle and struggle to lose weight. Even when they do lose weight, many people will simply never look like Gillian Michaels. It isn't in their cards.

      I don't mean to imply that physical or spiritual fitness comes easily to anyone. I believe all of it requires a great deal of work. But that effort works out better for some people than others, regardless of the level of effort the others exert. Gillian Michaels worked really hard and developed discipline, and it worked. For her.

      Also, I didn't mean to come across like I was whining about how easy it is for some people and not for me. I just meant to show that even when "the program" doesn't produce its advertised results, it still benefits anyone who practices it.

  5. I am pretty sure that you could beat me in an arm wrestle.
    I was a skeptical mormon before my mision. During my mission, I was really obediant, read and prayed and did the work all day. I was successful in bringing people into the church, teaching and baptisin 12 coverts during my mission, when the average was only 2. But guess what, I became even more skeptical during my mission, and lied everytime I taught and shared my 'testimony'.

    Now I am an atheist because I learned that my skepticism could be overcome.

  6. Could 'not' be overcome. Oops