I have never been accused of being in shape. Exercise has never been my thing. I’m not very good at sports. I’m competitive, but as it has been said if you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter. I have always been perfectly happy cheering on others in any number of sports.
So here I am, 34 years old, picking up a pair of running shoes for the first time in my life. I have been through other exercise phases, and this current burst of energy can probably be considered part of a longer one that has been on-going for about 18 months in varying degrees of intensity. Earlier phases, in earlier years were deemed “successful” when I reached some date, some event toward which I was working — my sister’s wedding in 2000, my own wedding in 2003, losing the baby weight from #1 before getting pregnant with #2, losing the baby weight from #2 before getting pregnant with #3. The big difference about this current exercise phase is that I have no end date, no wedding (mine or another’s), no more babies. So why am I doing it this time?
This time it’s for me. It’s not to fit into a bridesmaid’s or wedding dress. (Although, I won’t mind fitting into way cuter and sexier clothes than I have before!) It’s not to get ready to carry another child for 9 months. (Although, I do feel like I never stop carrying them one way or another.) This time it’s for me. It’s for making me into the best and healthiest me I can be. In that way, I have also thought about this time being for God. This time it is about my calling – my calling as a disciple, as a mother, as a wife, and as a pastor. I am terrified of the state of physical health in the church and particularly in ordained ministers. I am terrified when I go to denominational gatherings and count myself among a large number of wonderful people who feel we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. I want to get myself in the best shape I can to fulfill my call into all these roles. I want to be healthy and energized and awake to grow in my relationship with Christ. I want to be a role model to my children, showing them that taking care of my body and my health is important. I want to love myself so that I can love my husband. I want to demonstrate to my congregation that bodies matter, not because we can or should make them perfect, but because God created them, and if we’re going to talk about taking care of creation, we need to talk about taking care of our bodies, too.
So, here I am, 34 years old, picking up a pair of running shoes for the first time in my life. Running has never been my first choice for exercise, but it’s the one I have to choose for now. There’s no group exercise class schedule to negotiate around child care. There’s no bike to buy. There’s no swimming suit to don in public. It’s just my shoes, my iPod, and me. Five weeks ago I started the Couch to 5K program using the Get Running application on my iPad, running/walking on the treadmill at the Y in this late winter/early spring. Yesterday I took myself outside for my first ever run on “real ground.” I can say that I actually enjoyed it. I enjoyed the first BEAUTIFUL day we have had here. I enjoyed the wind and the sun. I enjoyed the ice floating on the mostly melted river. I enjoyed the sensation of my body doing something it has never been able to do before. I enjoyed the physicality of growing in strength and nurturing my calls from God.
Stephanie Anthony is a child of God called to be at this particular time (in no particular order) a mother, a wife, and a pastor. Having grown up on the east coast of Florida she now finds herself living in western Wisconsin where she is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hudson, Wisconsin. Now that spring is finally (hopefully?) here, she hopes to get outside of a lot more running.