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I needed to change...

Major Bronwyn Malcolm
Bronwyn Malcolm on the many benefits of physical fitness.

As a child, I grew up thinking I was ugly and wouldn’t achieve much in life.

For 40 years, I didn’t believe in myself and in the skills and abilities that God had gifted me with. I hated how I looked and lived thinking that people wouldn’t like me because I was nothing. That is not how I think now.

My journey stared six years ago when I got back from five years with The Salvation Army in Papua New Guinea and Fiji. I was nearly 40, felt fat and flabby, and didn’t like myself too much. When I got back to New Zealand, I started to think, ‘What am I accomplishing in life?’ It got to the point where I needed to do something about myself; I needed to change emotionally, spiritually and physically. So I did.

My first step was to go see a Christian counsellor for my emotional health. At the time, my husband was going to the gym and he asked me to join him. I was against it at first because I didn’t want to get all muscly. But in the end, I joined and got a trainer.

I was very haphazard for the first 10 months, but eventually started to make great progress, losing 20 kgs and going down to a size 12 from a size 18. The exercise cleared my mind and changed my whole outlook on life. I had a lot more confidence, and for once knew I could go the journey and maintain my ministry longer—doing what I was meant to be doing for The Salvation Army as an officer (minister) and for God. And yes, becoming fit physically has helped me become more fit spiritually, too.

People have been amazed at my transformation and ask how I’ve done it, perhaps expecting it was a quick fix. But it’s not been easy. It takes a lot of hard work and sweat, and you need to believe you can change. It would be easy to give up, but when you see results, it motivates you to keep going.

I try to help other people by passing on what I’ve learnt, but I can’t force what has worked for me on them. So I just keep encouraging people to do what they can to improve their lives physically, emotionally and spiritually. I want people to last the journey because that’s what it’s all about—going for the prize that is Heaven and making it there in a fit state!

In the Bible, God tells us that we’re the temple of the Holy Spirit but how can we accomplish what God wants us to do if we’re not fit, energetic and healthy? God requires the best of us and I didn’t feel like I was giving the best I could. I knew God loved me no matter what I looked like, but in myself, I felt I needed to improve.

I still have moments when I look at myself and think I’m still fat and ugly, but I know that’s just old thought patterns from my past. Most of the time I think that God made a pretty good job of me.

By Bronwyn Malcolm (abridged from War Cry, 3 November 2012, p9)