Our theme for 2019 is “The Body.” Today we are exploring that them with the blog…..

The Body requires discipline


Rev. Justin Cox serves as the Minister to Students at First Baptist Church-Statesville. He is a CBF Leadership Scholar pursuing his M.Div. at Wake Forest School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he, his wife Lauren, and daughter Violet live. When he’s not writing papers for school, his ramblings can be read at www.blacksheepbaptist.com

I have no problem admitting that when I first became a youth pastor I knew very little of what I was doing (arguably I still don’t) and found myself joining online communities for support. In those groups I saw a range of conversations dealing with discussions around theological differences to what games work well for different size youth groups. As time went on I began to notice either through social media posts or by simply viewing profile pictures that there was another issue those in youth ministry were experiencing. One that was obvious, but rarely openly discussed.
A large portion of Youth Pastors were overweight due to unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle practices.
This observation over time begin to strike a chord with me. Coming out of high school I was a pretty active and athletic youth. Once an athlete, it’s hard to view one’s self as anything else. However, perception was relying heavily on a high school image of myself that was close to 20 years old…
That’s not to say that when I graduated high school I became inactive the moment I received my diploma. Even up until the time I met my wife Lauren, I would go through long stretches lasting several months of hitting the gym. When we first met I was on a routine of lifting weights with a good friend for 6am workout sessions. I’ve always enjoyed working out and the camaraderie it brought, plus I thought because I was lifting and doing some cardio I could eat pretty much what I wanted. I was on this cycle from the time I was in my mid-twenties until I got married in my mid-thirties. As I got older and my schedule became more demanding and my responsibilities changed I found less and less time to go to the gym. Like many a newlywed, I watched myself pack on 40 pounds over a five year period. Poor meal choices and little to no exercise was the culprit. I felt like crap and watched some of my favorite outfits get shoved deeper and deeper into the back of our closet. I tried getting back in shape several times with varying results. There were many factors for my lack of living a healthy lifestyle; limited budget, hectic work schedule, and graduate studies made it all so easy to slip away and fall off the wagon. So with much hesitation, and with shame, during Christmas 2017 I stepped on a scale and was confronted with a weight I had never seen before; 260lbs. Yikes.
I knew I needed the same type of discipline I applied to course work in my seminary studies to make the changes I needed to be a healthier me. Two things happened which spurred me on; a friend’s close call with heart failure (it’s a very real moment when you perform a hospital visit and the person you’re visiting is your age) and the approaching due date of my daughter Violet. Yet, this time around my plan wasn’t to run to the gym. Instead I put the focus on the one place where I knew I had little to no discipline; my dinner plate. I began a life-altering eating plan which has made me conscious of everything I put in my mouth. I track each bite through an app and weigh myself twice a day. I’ve heard many people say you shouldn’t “tie yourself to the scale”, but in my experience, this is how I keep myself accountable. It may not be for everyone, but it works for me. One year later I’m down 70lbs and I’ve surpassed my goal weight.  Why was this time different? The only thing I can say in regards to that is I just decided that this time it was going to be different.
Scripture speaks to the need of discipline. The books of Hebrews, 1st Corinthians, and Titus have verses stressing the importance. I often link those verses along side Jesus’s words when he proclaimed in Matthew’s Gospel that his “yoke was easy and his burden was light.” Honestly, I’ve often thought the opposite when reading those words but the longer I’m on this yoke of being aware of what I put in my body I see how “light” it really is. Jesus is saying that when you come along beside me, what was once hard and difficult won’t seem that way for long. I’m not trying to compare picking up one’s cross to picking up one’s fork…yet then again, maybe I am?
When you make a major change in your life people take notice, especially when you start turning down pizza and soda a.k.a the standard meal at church youth events.  In the beginning when I declined pizza and doughnuts I would get asked an emphatic “why?” I’d try and explain my reasoning and often I’d get hit with, “But one doughnut isn’t gonna hurt you” or “Do you really have to deprive yourself like this?” You see this is where self-deprivation needs to be redefined and, in this case, I’m the one who gets to define it since it’s my body in question. Deprivation is me not being able to wear the jeans I want. Deprivation is me getting winded way too fast when I play with the students at the church. Deprivation would be me continuously making unhealthy life choices while my daughter watches on. I don’t feel deprived at all not being able to eat a large bowl of spaghetti.
If anything I feel freer than I have in a long time.