Growing up, I never liked sports. I was one of those girls who was slow at running and afraid of dodge ball in P.E. class. Thankfully, I was gifted in music. Somehow that compensated my lack of interests in sports. “It’s OK because I am good at music,” I thought.
I spent 5+ hours a day practicing the violin as a teenager.
I was blessed to study at the world’s best schools and receive rigorous training as a musician. I was not interested in exercising because I gave all my time to music. In college I became even busier practicing, studying, and performing. And, of course, I still was not interested in exercising. I secretly thought working out is for those who only care about their looks. “I have more important goals than that,” I thought.
After getting married, my husband and I moved to the Middle East as we both felt called to serve forgotten and overlooked people holistically through our professional skills. We took the time to learn the new language and the culture. I began working as a teacher here, and I also became a mom. I was constantly pouring my energy and time into others, and my physical health was not the top on my priority list. Looking after my own body seemed selfish. I was tricked into thinking that caring for others was more valuable than taking care of myself.
Then a miracle happened—I began working out.
One year ago, my close friends who are gym trainers encouraged me to work out with them. They shared with me the benefits of working out and how they believed that I would be able to finish the tasks God has given me even better if I became physically stronger. So, I decided to commit myself and try. We met after school every day and worked out together. I still remember how sore my body was for the first weeks. I took baby steps in the beginning, but my friends were patient with me and always encouraging.
Several months later I could feel the difference physically, mentally, and spiritually.
As I progressed to lift heavier weights and run faster, mental blocks were removed one-by-one. In the past, if something looked too hard, I would automatically think I could not do it and chicken out. I set my own limitations and often placed fear around me. Then my physical workout progressed into mental and spiritual exercises.
As I practiced handstands and I faced the fear of falling down, I tried to overcome the fear and do it over and over again to train my mind. As I ran, I imagined myself finishing this spiritual journey strong until the end. As I held my body when I plank, I thought about how I am teaching myself to obey and to do what is difficult. When exercising, I praised God for creating me and committed daily to glorifying Him through stewarding the gift of my body and my calling. My mind and spirit are getting stronger with my body!
Naturally, as my body got stronger my eating habits changed also. I always loved food (and I still do). But I realized that I had believed, somehow, that I had full authority to eat what I want and how much I want. I could never imagine myself controlling my diet because I believed I had no willpower to do that.
In May of this year, however, I decided to cut carbs and sugar from my diet and instead eat more vegetables and fresh cooked foods only. In just three months, I lost about 17 pounds without even focusing on losing weight. Now I continue to eat healthy, being mindful of what I put into my body, while occasionally enjoying a piece of cake and praising God for it.
The change in me has been so visible and contagious that four staff members from my work community have joined my workout! We have been meeting regularly to work out together and encourage one another. As a result, we have been blessed with stronger friendship and unity! I feel God’s contagious hope spreading!
What began as a simple exercise changed me holistically. God cares about every aspect of who we are, including our physical health, and how that impacts the rest of who we are and what we do.
For many years I had heard the IDEAS community focus on the SIPS (Social, Intellectual, Physical, and Spiritual) model and the inseparable connections between these areas of life. We shared this model with our friends and partners as it relates to our work as teachers here in Jordan, but I have not fully owned this concept until recently. Now I finally understand how the changes in my physical body impact my mind, intellect, and spirit because I have lived and experienced the difference!
Now more than ever, I firmly believe that my intellectual impact on my students here in the Middle East will one day bring beautiful changes in them holistically according to God’s timing and purpose.
About the Author: Joy is an IDEAS Associate and Music Director for an international school in Jordan. She previously served as concertmistress at the Juilliard School and is an outstanding violinist, educator, singer, composer, and pianist. Along with her husband and son, she has lived and worked for over 7 years in the Middle East. Enjoy other blog posts from IDEAS Associates in Jordan, such as Are You a Firehose or an Irrigation System?