Exercise—what are our motives?

Is exercise really required for health, strength, endurance, and beauty? 

Is my exercise rooted in Adam or Christ? This was a question I asked myself when I injured my back late last year. I have relied on Christian Science for over twenty years, but it wasn’t until I was sidelined with this injury that I was forced to examine my motives for exercise and athletic activities. 

The world strongly believes that exercise is required for health, strength, endurance, and beauty, and that athletic achievements are desirable for the self-worth they can give. This, however, is based on a concept of identity as encased in matter—as based in flesh and composed of muscles, tendons, nerves, organs, etc. It goes back to the second creation story in the Bible (the story of Adam and Eve) and the false belief it promotes that God “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7)—in other words, that God put life into matter. 

The first chapter of Genesis, on the other hand, records man (each one of us) as created in the image and likeness of Spirit, God. This enlightened, spiritual concept later identified with Christ—the divine idea of God—indicates that our true substance has not a single material element. 

I grappled with these conflicting concepts as I prayed for healing with the help of a Christian Science practitioner. Unable to participate in any of the sports I enjoy—cycling, jogging, horseback riding, hiking, etc.—or even walk without assistance, I devoted most of my day to study of the Bible and the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Over a period of several months, I realized that my motives for exercise and past sports accomplishments were rooted in the Adam-dream of life in matter and in self-glorification. I had apparently fancied myself the originator of all the abilities I had demonstrated in the various sports I had competed in. 

I now knew I had to replace those materialistic motives and false beliefs that I had held on to for so long with what God, Spirit, knows to be true about me as His purely spiritual reflection or expression. The belief that beauty, fitness, health, and the accolades I had earned were somehow my doing needed to be expunged by Christ, Truth, and I needed to give proper glory to God rather than self. 

I was forced to examine my motives for exercise and athletic activities.

Praying to clear my thought of false beliefs about exercise and the source of my strength and skill, I leaned on this Bible verse from First Peter: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (5:6).

I was awakening to the fact that the qualities I expressed while exercising were not in need of cultivation, but were instead spiritual qualities of God—precision, strength, coordination, stamina, etc.—that I reflect. The self-glorification I had attached to my sports accolades was being replaced by a greater sense of the gifts with which my dear Father-Mother God had endowed me. Qualities such as health and strength are spiritual and inherent in all of us, not the result of physical exercise.

The statement in Science and Health that “comeliness and grace are independent of matter” (p. 247) brought even greater clarity to this idea. It was a relief to know that beauty, fitness, endurance, and health were inherent in me as God’s expression even before I set out on any of the exercise activities I enjoyed. With this awareness, I felt so loved by God. I was growing through grace and humility, and these qualities became steppingstones to my healing of this injury. 

Slowly, I gained greater freedom and could walk without assistance. I continued to strive for spiritual growth, loving all that I was learning about myself as God had created me. It was a joyful journey as I endeavored to correct my thinking regarding my past and future. The truths I was grasping during this healing were greater than any accolade I had ever earned or ever would earn. This brought into focus the true Ego and Mind, God—the only Mind. 

This work of separating the tares (false beliefs) from the wheat (the truth of being) in my consciousness (see Matthew 13:24–30) has awakened me to stay alert to my motives when exercising. Those motives need to be rooted in Christ, the true idea of God, Spirit, rather than in Adam, the belief of life, beauty, fitness, etc., in matter. 

I am back to participating in all the activities I enjoy, but now it’s with an understanding of what true exercise is—the opportunity to express divine qualities and exercise dominion over every worldly mode of thinking. Now I endeavor to have both feet firmly planted in Christ rather than one in Adam and one in Christ. As the Bible says, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

Aligning thought with Spirit and the motive of magnifying God, and setting aside self for our real identity in Soul, are always the most worthwhile and freeing goals. Science and Health says, “The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul, to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony” (pp. 247–248).

Our true purpose in life is to glorify God in all that we do. The greatest joy any exercise or endeavor can bring comes when we give God the reins and consciously recognize that we already include all the beauty, strength, value, and health we could desire, because we are forever the reflection of God.

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What’s in your backpack?
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