A few times each week, I climb a mountain, but I don’t go anywhere.
Well, maybe it’s a mountain in my mind—the “mountain climb” program on my elliptical machine, actually. And even though I don’t go anywhere other than the corner of my bedroom, climbing that mechanized mountain takes me places I wouldn’t go otherwise.
Our rural property in America’s Midwest is surrounded by woods at the rear and sides, but across the road that borders our front lawn is a vast flat field, brown and stubbly right now, that stretches to the horizon. There is hardly a hill for miles around; so if I want to climb a mountain, I must do it on my man-made substitute.
I enjoy many forms of exercise and I try to do something nearly every day. Some days, I focus on stretching or strengthening, but on the mountain-climbing days, it’s all about increasing my cardiovascular fitness and decreasing my stress. Even though the Apostle Paul said, “Bodily exercise profiteth little,” I think even he would have recognized the benefits of a little sweating and straining, what with his many metaphorical references to foot racing and other athletic contests. But during an era in which walking was the primary mode of transportation, he probably would have shaken his head at me, expending all that effort but getting nowhere fast.
I might agree with Paul, except for the fact that I do go somewhere, not physically but certainly psychologically. I look forward to working out for the reason it’s called “working out.” Pushing myself to work harder and faster each session until I am utterly spent takes every bit of focus I have. For a precious half hour or so, I do not think of myself as mom, or wife, or teacher, or writer. I do not worry about my weight or my age or my shortcomings. I just put in some earbuds, play some music, and go. With every stride, I breathe in the good, breathe out the bad, and work out all my stress, which seeps out of my pores along with a great deal of sweat. After I step off, I feel settled and centered, inspired to do what I need to do, and be what I need to be.
I wonder if David’s wanderings through the wilderness of Israel (pictured above) helped him work out his “issues” in much the same way. Both as a young shepherd guiding his sheep and as a king-to-be fleeing from Saul, David covered a lot of ground; and when he was able to stop and take in his surroundings, they seemed to inspire him to share his heart and soul in song.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? —Psalm 8:3-4
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. —Psalm 63:1
And of course,
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.—Psalm 23
We are blessed indeed by the results of David’s sheep-herding and wilderness-trekking. I doubt I’ll ever write something divinely inspired after a session on my elliptical machine, but at least I’ll feel ready to live divinely inspired.
What do you do that leaves you feeling inspired and refreshed? Is it exercise or something else? I’d love to hear from you.