Being Skinny Is Not a Christian Virtue
This year, I am finally exercising and committing, with God's help, to caring for my body. I'm thinking less of my waistline, however, and more of the vitality I wish to be mine when I'm 70 and 80, should God grant me those years.
We are statistically living longer; yet, we are spending more years saddled with chronic disease. Exercise can improve the outlook for our older years. It won't necessarily ward off chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's, but it can delay or shorten their course.
"Typically, the most aerobically fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the final five years of their lives, instead of the final 10, 15 or even 20 years," writes New York Times health blogger Gretchen Reynolds in her piece on the benefits of middle-age fitness.
Vitality as we grow old is a worthy goal indeed, pictured biblically in passages like Psalm 92: "The righteous flourish like the palm tree... They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green."
If science is telling us that exercising now may help us achieve that vitality later, we should heed that advice: the practice of foresight is no less than the exercise of biblical wisdom. Plus, our efforts to improve our health into old age also can ease the physical, financial, and emotional burdens of caring for us, which future generations will be forced to bear.
Vitality in old age offers greater opportunities for building relationships and influencing children and grandchildren. The book of Genesis is framed as the story of "generations" (Gen. 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 46:8). With this narrative construct, the author insists that the activity of God expands beyond the scope of one human life. Whether or not we have biological children, this generational legacy can still be ours, for the New Testament upholds the notion that older men and women will teach and influence younger members of the church (Titus 2:3, 4; 1 Peter 5:1-5).
Here's a goal worth running after. And by the grace of God, tomorrow morning when I lace up my shoes, it will be grey-haired vitality—not skinny—that I chase.
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