A new year is upon us, and along with it the usual deluge of gym membership deals, diet programs, and wellness resolutions. Of course, many of these good intentions won’t last to the end of January, but that’s beside the point. The question is: how did we get to the place where most of us genuinely need a yearly re-focus on our own fitness? In the long history of the world, this is an anomaly. If we worked all day labouring in fields or factories, we wouldn’t need extra fitness goals. If we didn’t have a cozy car to ferry us around, we’d get more steps on the pedometer. If we did all the dishes and laundry by hand, chopped our own wood for heat, and got up early to milk the cows, we’d probably never think of making a special trip to the gym. Sure, we wouldn’t have time for it anyway!
Time. That was the whole point of all these labour-saving machines, wasn’t it? They promised us more time to do as we please. What they didn’t tell us is that all our labour-saving inventions would save us more than time – they would also save us from fitness. Many of us are now free from the really tough physical work at home and our jobs, and we live our daily lives in a level of comfort that the kings of old couldn’t have even imagined. So now we spend our extra free time (gifted to us by the machines) driving to special buildings where we pay good money for the privilege of working hard against weights and treadmills, because our bodies still need the physical labour that our machines have saved us from.
I’m not saying that I have something against taking time for exercise. I know I need to make more space for it in my own life. I just need to find the time, like everyone else, because somehow, even with all our labour and time-saving inventions, our lives are still stressful and our to-do lists are still long. Even with all our technology, all our helpful inventions, and all our labour-saving devices, we still haven’t been able to save ourselves from the realities of living as broken people in a broken world. Our bodies are still fragile, and our time is still limited. So this year, I’ll be thankful for the helpful machines around me and (hopefully) make more time to replace the exercise they’ve saved me from, but I won’t expect any of this to save me from the deeper problems that persist both in and around me. When it comes to those things, I’ll be looking up with Moses, asking for true perspective from our Maker:
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 91v12)