Everyone knows exercise is good for us. It gives us strength; it keeps us physically and mentally fit. Aerobic exercise pumps oxygenated blood to our heart, and cause endorphins to send out good signals from our brain. Okay, that’s the short and sweet version without mention of mitochondria and all those other little organelles that are working in our cells to keep us healthy. The point is exercise is good for our physical and emotional health.
We all know what we’re supposed to do to get that way. Eat nutritious foods, exercise, and stop indulging in too much chocolate. Oh, wait. Sometimes that doesn’t seem very fair. Let’s just forget I even mentioned that part.
So we know we need to do everything we can to keep our bodies as healthy and strong as possible, but what about our spiritual health? How do we give that healthy boost to our soul? How do we stretch our spiritual muscles?
To me, the obvious answers would be to first and foremost pray, followed by studying and having fellowship with other Christians. These are all good and wonderful things that inspire and edify us.
There are no wrong answers if we’re seeking to know God and make Him known – if we’re trying to strengthen our relationship with Him.
When we stretch our spiritual muscles, we’re energized with something almost supernatural, something that makes us want to keep growing, keep striving for that deeper connection with our Lord.
Personally, I know I need to exercise all of my muscles; spiritual and physical. So I tend to combine my exercise with my praise and worship time. And if you know me at all, you know the very best place for me to do that is at the beach. There’s something about the water – the waves, the rocks, and even the seagulls – that fills me, inspires me, and draws me close to God.
For years, I had the best place to experience it all.
There is a trail behind the hospital where I used to work, that winds its way along a bluff overlooking several of the San Juan Islands. It is the most awe inspiring trail, path, bluff, beach I’ve ever walked on. It’s a three-mile round-trip.
For me, the starting point was always in the middle. I have a memory card full of Christian Praise and Worship music. So with my ear-buds in, and my favorite songs queued up, I’d go one direction, double back, and then go the other. One way leads into the woods, and the other way leads further up the bluff before coming down near the beach. I always turned left as I began, and I’d walk along the bluff until I was in the woods. At one point, there is an opening in the trees where you’re right over the water, with eagles flying overhead. As the trail journeys into the woods, it winds around until you’re back at that same spot over the water. But as you’re facing in the new direction, instead of facing windswept bluffs, you see the islands, with mountains far off in the distance.
Here’s where it always got magical for me. I don’t care what song was playing first when I started, or even how fast or slow I walked. It was as if God always orchestrated His perfect timing.
Do you know the song, Majesty? My favorite version is by Delirious? I would be walking along listening to these words:
Here I am, humbled by your majesty,
Covered by your grace so free.
Here I am, knowing I'm a sinful man,
Covered by the blood of the lamb.
Now I've found the greatest love of all is mine,
Since You laid down Your life,
The greatest sacrifice.
Now here is where the magic would happen. I’d step out of the woods, often times with the sun beginning to slip behind the mountains, casting gorgeous shadows over the islands, and the music would swell and this same verse would play every time:
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed but alive in Your hands
Forever I am changed by Your love
In the beauty of Your Majesty.
It never failed. There were a lot of amazing experiences out there, as I communed with God, but the timing of this, the beauty of this…it was just so soul-cleansing, so healing and humbling.
I wasn’t raised in a church where we raised our hands, and I don’t attend a church now that raises hands. But there was something so fulfilling when walking on the trail with the perfect timing of that song and the view and … I just had to raise up my hands every time. I guess you could say I’m a self-taught hand-raiser. I couldn’t not raise my arms up to Him. I know some of the people walking on the trail probably gave me funny looks, but I didn’t care. I did what was in my heart.
I’m not able to walk on that trail any longer, but I am blessed for the years I was able to spend there. I’ve found a new place to walk, also on a bluff overlooking the water, but it’s on the opposite side of the island. Clear or hazy, it’s still breathtaking and my heart delights in every minute I’m able to spend there.
It hasn’t happened yet that Majesty starts to play in a certain special place. Perhaps it won’t again. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I’m still exercising my physical and spiritual muscles, still walking along with God, and I know He’ll bring other wonderful experiences into my life.
We’re all unique individuals, each inspired and motivated by different things, so it makes sense that we would stretch our spiritual muscles in different ways.
So I’m curious. Is there something special you do that blesses you and fills your soul with joy as you praise God and stretch your spiritual muscle?
Majesty: Words and music copyright by Martin Smith and Stuart Garrard, 2003
Photos copyright Susan D. Johnson