Before I get on with writing about the joy of moving in silence (and the body/soul/spirit connection in movement), I feel compelled to provide full disclosure: For the better part of twenty years, I taught group fitness classes—dance aerobics, step-aerobics (does anyone do this anymore?), spin, water aerobics—you name it. I loved nothing better than hooting and hollering through choreographed routines to loud, beat-thumping tunes while sweat poured off me like nobody’s business. Oh gosh…those were the days! I can’t even think about my fitness classes without having a big smile on my face. Besides getting a great workout, I truly loved how I felt leading those classes.
I have to admit, even though I never thought about connecting my body to my soul and spirit while stepping up and down on an 8-inch high platform to a sped-up version of Gettin’Jiggy Wit It, something was happening inside me. I am convinced those classes connected to a part of me—my soul—that was hard-wired for fun, dancing, yelling (in a good way), and encouragement. And oh, how I love to encourage others! It’s a gift that I believe God has given me. (In Romans 12, Paul explains that we each have different gifts that should be used for the benefit of others. Romans 12:8 specifically mentions the gift of encouragement 🙋🏻♀️.) Teaching fitness classes gave me the opportunity to directly encourage my students with my other “gift” of hooting, hollering, and squealing—not like a pig, mind you—but squealing nonetheless. It was a squeal of delight. And perhaps, like Eric Liddell (who I wrote about last week), I could sense God’s pleasure in my joy. That deeply touched my spirit.
While I understand that many (most?) of you won’t relate to my personal example of how moving my body in that particular way enabled me to connect to my soul/spirit, I believe that we all have the ability to make this connection; in fact, we are made for it. If we move with the intention of listening to what our soul is saying (think about your heart and emotions here) and be open to hearing from God, we can stop seeing exercise as something to impose on our bodies; rather, we can experience movement as an invitation to encounter God. The question is, how?
First, you need to make your experience personal. Let’s assume that performing somewhat intricate dance moves to Disco Inferno is not your thing. That’s okay because what touches you will be a combination of your personality, genetics, temperament, and the season of life that you’re in. Sure, you may (sadly) never know the joy of singing “burn baby burn” while performing a grapevine across the floor with 30 other people (🙋🏻♀️), but you might be the person that comes alive while swimming in the ocean or speeding down the hill on a bicycle. God knows how He designed you and how you can best connect to Him.
If you aren’t sure you ever experienced a true soul/spirit connection when you move, it could be that you just aren’t used to tuning in. In last week’s post, I encouraged you to check in with your soul to ask it what it needed before you set out to exercise. (How did you get on with that?) I believe it’s critical to do that to allow your soul to have a say in what you do. Believe it or not, Disco Inferno is not a cure-all for everything that ails me. Right now, I’m in a unique season, and I need something very different to touch my soul. Most often, silence is what I need. (Experiencing anger and grief will do that to you.) In times like that, I desperately need to hear from God. How about you? Do you connect with God when you exercise?
If you generally aren’t aware of God’s presence when you exercise, I suggest you begin by going outside and moving slowly in God’s creation. When you do so, you’ll be open to acknowledging a force far greater than yourself. Paul writes about this in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Arguably, this is one of the primary reasons why people are enamored with sunsets; it helps them to feel more connected to God. When the sky is ablaze with colors we wouldn’t dream of putting together, our attention is drawn to someone or something that is much greater than ourselves. The result is awe-inspiring. This is where our soul-spirit connection soars.
For the last several months, I have been taking this process even further on my daily walks. Because God is THE creative creator, He is always speaking in ways that we often don’t expect. As I’ve gotten better at tuning in, I hear Him in the experience of moving through nature. Sometimes I sense something quite profound; other times, I just experience delight in the small details of what He is showing me. When I was walking on the path in the above picture, I felt God encouraging me to stay on the narrow (but not straightforward) path he had me on. I immediately felt overwhelmed that God was speaking exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.
When I came across this unusual “planter” on a recent walk, I felt delighted by this person’s use of “junk.” I was immediately reminded that we are made in God’s image and, therefore, we all have the capacity to be creative. I felt sad that for years I believed a lie that I was not one of those people. This prompted me to thank the Lord that He had already healed me of much and then asked Him for an increase in my creative talents.
Here is another example: On a recent walk through a winery, I noticed that even though the grape harvest is only four months away, there is no sign of fruit other than a small bloom. At this moment, I felt God encourage me about my business. I had been feeling so discouraged with my slow growth, but I heard Him say, “You may not see much yet, but there will be a great harvest coming.” Wow, God. You are so cool…
Although I didn’t hear God speak when I saw this divine creature standing on the edge of a vineyard, I felt Him tickle my soul, and I laughed out loud. (I mean, how could you not?) I just LOVE that God created such a wonderfully unique animal and that I got to see him standing out there in a vineyard. I often go back to this picture when I want to feel close to my heavenly Father—a dad who is fun and funny and tickles my soul. This simple moment, experienced while out on a walk, helped me to feel grounded and loved. That’s what I call a body/soul/spirit connection.
Okay, so now it’s your turn! Last week you practiced checking in with your soul to see what you needed while you exercised for ten or more minutes. This week I encourage you to slow down and move in silence while you tune into what God is saying to you in nature. I promise you don’t have to wait to see a long-horned cattle standing in a vineyard to hear Him speak! Here are a couple of tips to get you started:
- Pray before you go out. Ask God to speak to you.
- I suggest you walk (bike, skate, row, hike, etc.) in silence—no music or podcasts.
- As you move, look around and see what your eyes are drawn to— a tree, flowers, animals, people.
- Ask God what He wants you to know about what you are seeing
- Pray about what He says.
As always, I cherish your comments and observations. Let me know how you got on last week and what you hear from God this week. Let’s encourage each other!