Blog by Megan Hogue
If 15 years ago, at the age of 22, you would have told Sarah Megan Hogue (that’s me) that fitness would have mattered to her, she would have laughed you right out of the room. In fact, looking back at that part of my life seems like a dream, like maybe was someone else, and not me. I have always struggled with my weight, throughout college and my early 20’s, I did not exercise, made tons of excuses, and just really gave up on myself. I struggled with my self-esteem, my worth and value, and my purpose. Honestly, I gave up on myself.
The heaviest, documented at the doctor weight I ever remember seeing for myself was 358, and at that point I decided enough was enough. It had gotten hard to teach and be energetic, and I needed to make a change. I decided I would wake up at 4am and walk in my neighborhood, I wanted it to be so early that nobody would see me. I started eating less and learning a little bit about food and how it was meant to fuel my body. I lost 80 pounds and decided to go to my first actual, in front of people exercise class. I started with Zumba and I LOVED it, but let’s be clear, I was NOT good at it! HA! Then, I started with a strength and step class, led by my beast of a mom! I fell in LOVE with working out, I fell in love with how it made me feel, the energy and empowerment it brought to me. I looked up and in about two years, I had lost well over 100 pounds.
I think for me, the real game changing moment came when I tied my physical health to my spiritual health. I started to really understand how I was not using the gifts God had given me in the ways he wanted me to, I was just too tired all the time! I started to realize that I could not do and be all he wanted me to be while I was not physically at my best. It started to become more than “being skinny” for me, but being healthy. I wanted to have energy to do things and at school and church, to be more present with friends and family.
As for teaching fitness classes, my mom would ask me to sub and help her lead in some classes. She gave me the confidence I needed to step up and feel like I could absolutely do it. Over the years, it just became my spot, my mission. I love getting to pour into ladies, seeing them become stronger and more fit, seeing their confidence grow and change. I love having hug parties when someone can do a full burpee or does not have to modify certain workouts anymore, I get annoyingly excited for these things! I love seeing people become their best physically, so they can be their best for the body of Christ.
In our society, Fitness means so much to so many. In some cases, being fit is equivalent to being skinny. To many, being skinny is the equivalent to being pretty. Social media and the world around us tell us so many untruths about these things, and that our value should be tied to being skinny, fit, and pretty. We are also told that all of these things go together. To be honest, that is just not true. Fit, skinny, and pretty are not related, and are three words that have not one single ounce of value to who you are. I used to beat myself up so badly, I would be so frustrated that I “wasted my 20’s” being lazy and overweight. But now, now I see the beauty in my 20’s, the story that Christ wrote for me going through weight loss and learning where my true value is found, those are things I get to pour into people now, things I would not have known if I would not have “wasted my 20’s.’
Here is the truth, we are called to exercise, eat right, and take care of our bodies so we can be our absolute best! When we are at our best, we are able to use our gifts in a way to make Heaven crowded, and ultimately that should be or goal! Here are a few truths from the word about fitness and health and how it relates to your place in the body of Christ.
John 16:33 says “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
This verse promises us hardships, and sometimes those hardships come in the form of chocolate chip cookies, or saying no to that bag of Doritos or the last piece of cheesecake. While it is true that God looks at a person’s heart, and not their outward appearance, the Bible speaks a lot of truth about maintaining a healthy body and mind to be the best you can for him.
1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 says “Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself. For God bought you at a high price, So you MUST honor God with your body.”
I love this verse for obvious reasons. Reason one, it reminds me how precious I am to God. He bought me at the highest price, the price of his sons life. With that reminder comes a responsibility though. Because I have asked Jesus to live in my heart, the holy spirit dwells in me. I should treat my body like a temple where the holy spirit, where Christ is living. Wow, no pressure there! Treating your body like the temple that it is can be tough. Our daily lives can often times get in the way. I think for this, we have to mindfully choose to treat our body that way. Eating a cleaner diet, choosing to spend at least 30 minutes a few days a week exercising, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water are all things that go into maintaining our temple. Does God call us to be perfect at these things, no. He understands that sometimes the salad and carrots you packed for lunch do not sound as good as the burger others are calling in. He understands that sometimes your workout bag was packed, but you got stuck at work and missed the gym. I would say he even understands when you get a little less sleep because you got sucked into that show on Netflix. So, does God call us to be perfect at those things, no. But he does call us to be mindful of them.
1 Timothy 4:8 says “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is writing to Timothy and telling him how to be a good servant in Christ. In this verse, he explains the value of both physical and spiritual exercise. Our society puts a lot of emphasis on exercise to make yourself more appealing to yourself and others physically, it can often times be tied with superficial reasons. I like that in this verse, Paul somewhat ties physical and spiritual exercise together. He points out the importance of both. Being your best spiritually is important. Things like having the armor of God on, having scripture memorized, being involved in a life group or have a group of friends that holds you accountable, those things are so important to our calling. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples” and in order to do this, we must be at our best spiritually. The truth is, we can be at our weakest when we aren’t at our best physically. If we haven’t slept enough, or have eaten things that make us feel groggy, we can lose some of our edge. We may be more grouchy, or just be in a rough place mentally which can lead us to not always who Jesus in a way we should. Paul found it important enough to mention our physical with spiritual exercises, they are tied together in our work for Christ.
1 Corinthians 13: 27 says “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.”
-We have all been given different gifts to complement the body of Christ. Sometimes, we may look at others and wish we had their gift or ability, but this verse is such a sweet reminder that what you have been given is a necessary part of Christ body. This part is simple to me. In order to be your best self for Christ body, you must take care of your body. By choosing to not take care of your body physically, by not being the best YOU that you can be, you are hurting the body of Christ. He saw enough value in you to make you an important part of his body. Shouldn’t you see the same value in yourself and want to physically be the best you can? Your work for the Kingdom, for Christ body is tied up with your physical and spiritual health. Both of these things should be heavily protected and should both be things we take the time to invest in.
John 15: 16 says “You didn’t choose me, I chose you!”
Jesus made the first choice, to choose us. He chose to love and die for us, before we were even on this earth. There is no greater love, nothing more unconditional than the way Christ loves us. He sees value in us, in Ephesians 2:10, we are called “God’s masterpiece.” This makes me smile every time, the fact that I am the Mona Lisa of God. He loves me so much, shouldn’t I love myself that much, enough to take care of my body and be the best I can for him? God loved me just the same before I lost 100 pounds. He does not value how much I weigh, can I get an amen? He saw my value and potential before I lost the weight I did. I think now, God is so honored in my growth spiritually and physically. Before getting healthier, I think God was sad at how broken I often times felt about myself, I could not see the value in me like he could. I am able to do more now everyday, I am able to do more for his kingdom because of the improvement of my physical health. God sees our heart, he does not look at our outward appearance. He calls us to have a pure heart and a heart that seeks and longs for the same things he does. He is our father, he wants and desires what is best for us because he knows the best we can be.
A friend of mine sent me a picture of a prayer devotion she was reading. The title was, “Lord, help me to take care of myself.” The prayer started like this, “Lord, I commit my body to you as a temple of your Holy Spirit. Teach me how to care for it properly. Show me how I should eat and what I should avoid. Take away all desire for food that is harmful to me. Give me balance and wisdom.” The prayer went on to say “teach me to simplify my life so that I can live better and be healthier.” Our life can be so hectic, but God desires us to make our health both physically and spiritually a priority.
The awesome news is that God does not call us to be the most perfect physical specimens around, he doesn’t call us to have the perfect summer body, he doesn’t call us to eat broccoli and carrots everyday, he doesn’t call us to ALWAYS pass on the cheesecake or shrimp po’boy, he doesn’t call us to be able to run 10 miles a day or throw weights around with ease. He does not even call us to be pretty. He does however to call us to treat our body like a temple, a temple where the holy spirit dwells.