by Melissa Nesdahl
“No! No! No, mommy, no!” With hot tears streaming down her red, swollen face, my tiny two year old, Hannah, thrashed her body from side to side in desperate attempt to break my hold. As she sat on my lap inside of the loving but firm embrace of one hand, I struggled to use the other to place the mask that would deliver life-giving albuterol to her sick, RSV stricken body. Desperately wanting the best for Hannah, I encouraged her to quit resisting the doctor’s order because it would restore health to her weak body.
I love being a mother. When God blessed my husband and I with our firstborn, Grace, I welcomed the opportunity to stay home with her, investing all my time and energy into raising this beautiful girl God entrusted to us. Shortly after her first birthday, God surprised us with another pregnancy. Hannah came just two days after Grace turned two.
To care for myself, I rose about two hours before the girls, allowing time to exercise, get myself ready, and enjoy some Bible study. I felt spiritually full and ready for my day when the girls awoke. Life changed, however, when the girls grew into toddlers. Suddenly I heard “mooommy!” just as I would get out of bed. Energetic and anxious for the day’s activities, Grace and Hannah ran out of their room to greet me with their morning hugs and kisses. And my morning routine was gone.
Feeling as though I had no “me time,” I found myself struggling. I so desperately craved the exercise and Bible study squeezed out by the needs of the day, but there didn’t seem to be time. I woke up tired, cared for my girls, spent quality time with my amazing husband, volunteered in the community, was present for my family and friends, and then crashed hard at night. From sun up to sun down my day was jam-packed with activity, and I was running on empty.
Snappy and out of shape, I broke. Something had to change. I couldn’t keep operating this way and still be the person that God created me to be.
In my youth, I learned 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which reads, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you are bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (NIV). Although I’d always considered it in relation to modesty, premarital sex, alcohol, and drugs, I unexpectedly found the verse creeping through my mind time and time again.
God was convicting me. When I envision temples, or a place of worship, I picture a pristine structure commanding reverence. But I was doing anything but respecting my body. Life’s busyness had sucked the discipline of exercise completely out of my life.
During Bible study, I requested prayer for wisdom. My husband and I considered purchasing an elliptical machine, but space and the safety of our children were concerns. The other possibility was joining a gym. Not surprisingly, I found challenges with that as well. My girls were never cared for by anyone other than family. Would they do okay with a stranger in a playroom? And, would I honestly have the ambition to leave the comforts of exercising in my own home to get myself and the kids loaded into the car each day, drive to a facility, unload the kids, get sweaty, reload the kids, drive home, unload the kids yet again, and get myself ready?
No! No! No, God, No! And in that moment, I became to God what Hannah was to me. She wanted physical health without the albuterol mask and I wanted physical, emotional, and spiritual health without needing to alter my routine. She flailed around pleading for me not to give her the treatment and I placed an agitated heart before God begging to be released from my situation. I said, “Please Hannah, just do this, I know it will make you well,” and my all-knowing God voiced the same to me.
Eventually Hannah gave up the fight. Trusting my words, she allowed me to place the mask against her face and very quickly her shallow, constricted breathing slowed into relaxed, fulfilling breaths. Likewise, I submitted to God’s voice. Confident that He was calling me to a gym, I pressed forward and purchased a membership.
God surprised me. Although the first few separations were rough, the girls adapted quickly and now they actually desire going to the playroom each day. Meanwhile, I get to bike while reading my Bible study, walk the treadmill as I listen to scripture, and run on the elliptical while enjoying Christian music – not to mention sharing meaningful fellowship with others.
What spiritual discipline has been put on the back burner in your life? What changes do you need to make to better honor your God-given temple? I beg that you don’t fight the mask. Please listen to His voice, because when the Great Physician writes a prescription it will always breathe life into your longing body.
Melissa Nesdahl is a wife, mother, volunteer, and independent Christian writer striving to foster faith development in the life of her readers. Previous publications include the Chicago Tribune, Pam Stenzel’s “Love Lessons: Purity is Possible” CD series’ leaders guide, and “Surviving China” in Kyria. Catch Melissa twittering at http://twitter.com/MelissaNesdahl.