Spiritus Sanus In Corpore Sano

I’ve been in pain for the past five days. I can’t run or squat without wincing, neither can I walk normally, even though folks don’t seem to notice, and I brought it all on myself. How? It’s a short story. I spent the New Year with my boyfriend’s family, and my short stay there included visits to his grandpa, Omooba Johnson Adeboye Omololu (of blessed memory) who was ill. He actually started getting better before my return to Lagos, so I was half surprised to hear in mid-January that he had passed- half surprised because he was 105, and who gets to live that long these days?

My desire to go and pay my last respects was however tempered with my trepidation at the thought of meeting his extended family for the first time. In my mind, it was one thing to be fussed over and pampered by his mum, dad and siblings, and quite another to be scrutinized by aunts, uncles and cousins, especially since I’m “omo ibo”. I was more than nervous; I was petrified. Anyway, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, so the day came and off we went.

Now those of us from the Niger Delta know that if you choose, you can be ramrod straight while greeting an older person (except, of course, he or she has gray hair, and then you only alter your position slightly in which ever direction, as long as you moved, lol) and that if you already greeted them once, say in the morning, you really can’t be bothered till it’s time to go to bed. As a matter of fact, the Urhobo greeting, “mi gwo” literally means “I am on my knees”, but are we ever? So when I realized I wanted to spend forever with this Yoruba boy, I actually had to practice bringing my two knees to the ground morning, afternoon, evening and night, and every other time in between- greeting for sitting down, for staying at home, for breaking wind and of course for just being.

To the glory of God, the burial ceremony went well and I had an interesting time! Everyone was warm and welcoming and funny and sweet and despite the fact that I couldn’t understand their language, God’s favour was constantly with me. But of course, I had to go and do something silly. Instead of me to continue my normal kneeling style, which is putting one knee down and then the other, I got carried away by the sight of other girls going down with both knees in one swift move and getting back up just as fast. It didn’t occur to me that they’d been doing it all their lives. So I tried it. And I was immediately sorry, but not as sorry as I would later be when I had to go up and down stairs. It hurt so bad, it was truly a shame. I regretted letting Lagos life take me away from my workouts which used to be so important to me. I knew I had to return to my exercise mat and my skipping rope as soon as possible.

But just as those thoughts went through my mind, one of my beau’s cousins called me to come and look at Baba as he lay in state. I went there and looked in, and perhaps because I had never stood so close to a lifeless body, it hit me like a ton of bricks- he wasn’t there. Baba was just not there. It was a body, dressed in nice clothes, but the man wasn’t there. And I wondered, why do we go through all this, keeping an empty container around and calling it a person and even talking to it, when the one we loved, who ate and drank and laughed with us just isn’t there anymore? And if this is how we will all end up, why bother? Why spend time and money on a covering we will leave behind? No wonder the Bible says that we have “this treasure in earthen vessels”, or as another translation puts it, in “jars of clay”.

So can we forget all about being fit, since we are only in these bodies temporarily anyway? Perish the thought. Three days after, I can still feel the pain in my poor legs, and that tells me something; I owe it to myself and to the Holy Spirit whose temple my body is, to be a good caretaker of my body as long as I’m here, by the things I choose to do, and the things I choose not to do. But I will also exercise myself unto godliness by studying my Bible, praying, meditating, and the hard part- OBEYING. I will monitor and censor the things I accept through my eyes and ears like a model watches her diet, and in the war against sin I will push myself beyond the limits of my natural man like an athlete running as to win the prize.

Striving for a healthy spirit in a healthy body will not be easy. I know my body will ache for the first few days when I resume my workouts. I also know that my natural self will cry out and protest being denied the indulgence and sensual pleasures it has grown accustomed to. There will inevitably be mornings when thirty minutes will seem to hold more promise spent in bed instead of working out or praying. There will always be gorgeous eyes and lips to tempt me; as willing as the spirit is, this treacherous body of mine is what it is, after all. God help me then, and forbid that I give up altogether, or lose sight of what is most important. Balance is key, because when it’s all been said and done, the words in 1st Timothy 4:8 (The Message) remain true; “Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.”

As good as being physically fit feels, it would not do to get carried away with it. I’d rather remember my Creator in the days when I have strength, because youth and beauty fade away and in the end, the body is put back in the same ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it…

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