I recently returned to CrossFit after a five-month hiatus. When I decided to take a break, following a reproductive specialist’s recommendation, I’d been a regular CrossFitter for several years.
It’s an amazing way to work out and relieve stress. Plus, fitness is more fun with friends. So is showing up and having someone else tell me what to do. Anyone else struggle with self-discipline at the gym?
I’ll admit, though, that I got a little too into CrossFit at one point. It’s funny because I wasn’t entertaining any grandiose illusions that I was going to be a professional or anything. I knew I was doing it merely for fun and my health.
But it’s strangely addicting. Tracking progress and pounds lifted motivated my desire for constant improvement. At work, I couldn’t wait to hit the gym. At home, I’d watch CrossFit videos on Youtube. All the time, I avoided missing workouts (except if rowing or thrusters were involved) … all to the detriment of other priorities and people in my life.
I took a good thing — exercise — and elevated it to my number one priority.
Lisa Bevere in Without Rivalwrites, “An idol is anything that you give your strength to or draw your strength from.” Whoa. Literally, I was giving my strength to this activity. And worst of all: God was getting my leftovers.
The Lord is clear that we are to have no other gods before him. He doesn’t tolerate divided hearts. Jesus references God’s laws when he says, “… you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
I was devoting my mind and time and love and strength to CrossFit. My hobby seemed innocuous, healthy even, but it was taking a spiritual toll.
Around the time I started to notice my priority problem is also when we started seeking fertility advice. Our infertility journey is a story that’s still being written, but I will say that dealing with it has challenged me to seek God, surrender my control, and — at first — forego my gym membership.
During my fitness-free months, while my physical strength was waning, God was working on my heart. I was gaining weight while shedding idols. I gave myself shots and then realized I can’t call my own shots. So much shifted for me in a mere few months, even my career.
Coming to the end of myself forced me to rely on God, allowing him to rearrange my priorities. It wasn’t always pleasant. In the process, I kept thinking about parallels between faith and fitness. CrossFit (or really any workout regimen) includes an element of suffering and soreness. It means your muscles are rebuilding and you’re gaining strength.
Faith works similarly. To build it, we have to move. It takes action and effort. Suffering and struggles are an opportunity to strengthen our faith. But the best part? God meets us there so we don’t have to endure on our own.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. Romans 5:3-5
Endurance. It’s not easily gained, and it takes time to develop. We have to work for it, when we’re pushing through a tough workout or dealing with our most pressing problem. Over time, it leads to strength — whether physical or mental.
I’ve learned again and again that pursuing anything above my Creator results in burnout and disappointment. Our idols — people, ideas, activities, things — over promise and under deliver. Always. And the danger is that good things, healthy things, can become idols sooner than we consciously realize.
The good news is that God loves us too much to let us continue down this destructive path. When we experience troubles, we can thank God for an opportunity to run to him. Of course, rejoicing in response to pain is unnatural. But because of Jesus, we have access to the supernatural.
After giving up fitness and grieving a few failed fertility treatments, I soon felt the side effects: feeling less like myself, moody, and stressed. I realized that my desire for a baby could just as quickly become an idol, demanding my time and money and strength. I could strive and try to take matters into my own hands. Or I could see this trial as an opportunity to develop endurance and patience and strengthen my faith.
So I surrendered. My timelines. My plans. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up. It means I’m putting God first, looking up and anticipating how he — who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) — will write this story and form our family.
(I should also take a moment here to acknowledge my husband’s role in this process. He’s been an amazing support and a steady source of encouragement.)
I’m thankful I quit CrossFit and sought out fertility care. God taught me some important lessons that I couldn’t have learned otherwise. Most of all, I learned that when God is in his rightful place, first, everything else will fall into place.
And while we wait, I’m back at CrossFit (yay!) … with a fresh perspective and properly ordered priorities. I already feel more like myself, and I thank God for the gift of my body and physical fitness. I’m also holding close to this verse:
Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8
I want to be in shape — physically, yes, but spiritually even more so. I want to draw my strength from God and find my identity in Christ (not in how much I can deadlift or an infertility diagnosis). I want to place my hope not in an activity or modern medicine but in God’s mighty hand.
How about you? What are you giving your strength to? Take a look at your life and see if anything is out of order in your heart, mind, and time.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33
If you’re suffering through infertility, know you are not alone. We are all on a unique path. I’m not here to compare decisions and approaches to treatment. Rather, I’m here to offer my experiences and, hopefully, bring some encouragement. I’d love to connect with and pray for you!