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.