I like to learn from my surroundings and everything that happens. It’s a thing I learnt from my mom. I remember we used to watch Mexican Soap Operas or Nigerian movies and she would later be explaining how a specific scene reminded her about a certain scripture in the bible. I would often sit there thinking,” What? I thought this was just entertainment?” I’ve gotten used to it so it doesn’t quite catch me by surprise anymore. It’s something that I now find myself doing: trying to learn from everything around me.
With that in mind, I went to a gym the other day….for the first time in my life. After singing that song for a few years, I finally got round to doing it and learnt a couple of things while at it:
He Will Never Let You Go
A friend from church was gracious enough to take me to the gym he goes to. So we made plans and met up after work. I felt like it was my first class in high school all over again. I thought we would learn things like, “What is Biology? What are the benefits of studying the subject?” You know: the basic things. That is DEFINITELY NOT what happened!! We ended up ‘warming up’ on a flight of stairs in a building with several stories. It was difficult. I felt like fainting. I felt like I was about to swallow my Adam’s apple (which I don’t have). I felt like my chest was on fire. My legs forgot to walk on several occasions.
At every step, my friend (despite making fun of me and enjoying my misery), held me by the hand. He refused to let go even when I said I would be fine. He could see my legs wobble and seemed to care about retaining my current dental structure. I whined, lamented, cried, gave up several times and even told him that our friendship was over. But even with such toddler-like tantrums, he urged me to keep pushing. We had three rounds of this (supposed) warm up and we needed to finish them. He wouldn’t let me quit. To some extent, he reminded me of Jesus who never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). It reminded me that no matter what I pass through, He is with me (Isaiah 43:2). It reminded me that He has always provided a way (1st Corinthians 10:13). It reminded me that I’m never alone and I don’t have to do anything of my own strength simply because, I have Christ.
After the warm up, the trainer I was handed over to was NOT kind. He had no mercy. He would: demonstrate what I needed to do, see my first trial, tell me how many times to do it for one set and then how many repetitions I needed to do to complete the specific exercise. The contrast between his style and my friend earlier on was an opportunity to see the contrast between Christ and everyone else. He went ahead of us as an example and was victorious (Hebrews 4:14&15) yet He still walks with us, enabling us by the Holy Spirit, to follow in His footsteps.
Trials Are For Your Good
At one point during training, I asked the instructor, “Who hurt you in life?” I was genuinely trying to understand why he would enjoy seeing people go through pain. It was a joke and he took it as such. But it made me think about all the times that people have asked, “Well, if God is a good God, then why do people suffer?” This made me think of all the times that I have taken suffering as punishment; like it couldn’t serve any other purpose. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was and is not the trainer’s desire to see me suffer. His primary aim in life is not to feed off of other people’s misery. He knew something I didn’t – that to grow and to achieve the goals I have, I will go through pain. There will be lactic acid accumulation, there will be growing pains as my muscles form, but this will enable me to go from one level to the next until perhaps (I hope and pray) there will be no more pain.
In the same way, our faith is much more precious than gold and therefore needs to be refined (1st Peter 1:7). Refining will come with pain and other challenges, but it is aimed at yielding/ unveiling something beautiful and worth much more that I could ever imagine. So I should count it all joy (James 1:2-4), because it is working for my good (Romans 8:28).
Strengthen Your Feeble Knees
As I walked down the gym stairs to go change and leave after the first day, I fell. I got to that last step and my legs betrayed me; they just gave up and I came tumbling down. I was a bit surprised at first but then later I realized something. I had been vigilant about my wobbly legs before being handed over to the trainer. Once I did what I was supposed to do and figured that my legs were getting stronger, I became lax. I had just lifted 10 kg with my legs on my first try! That was an achievement for me, so why would I be worried about walking down a flight of stairs? That had been a warm up issue; I had now advanced! Right there and then, 1st Corinthians 10:12 made so much sense. Then I remembered about Matthew 4 when Jesus had fasted forty days and nights. Guess what? Immediately after, the devil came, temptations in hand. He had no regard for the fact that Jesus had been through strengthening of the spirit and weakening of the flesh during that period. This reminded me of every time I have come from a ‘strengthening’ period in my walk and got blindsided by a pitfall because I considered it ‘something from the past that had nothing on me since I was now too strong to fall back into it.’
So, in that moment, as I got back up from the ground, Hebrews 2:11-13 resonated in a new sense, “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” True to that, on day two, as I ran round that field warming up, I realized that part of strengthening my knees meant speaking life (the Word) into every situation. I would no longer say, “I can’t do this” when I saw myself halfway around the track, gasping for breath and feeling my heartbeat in my throat. Instead, I would say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I will overcome this obstacle and build up to something more beautiful. It will be worth it in the end. Only four more laps and you’re done.” There is already so much stacked up against me; I can’t afford to be another unnecessary obstacle in the process…..and so it is in other areas of my life.
The Importance Of Community
If it weren’t for my friend who encouraged me to keep going up and down the stairs on the first day, I would have given up and decided that one or two rounds were enough. If it wasn’t for him asking the trainer not to be soft on me, I wouldn’t have done anything worth my time. As we headed home, knees wobbly and legs (mostly) giving in, I would have been falling at the slightest elevation as I walked home…but he held me up and ensured that I didn’t fall. If it wasn’t for my other friend who asked me to go back the next day, refusing to indulge my intentions to not go back, I wouldn’t have been there the next day. Do you see the pattern?
These friends have played a critical role in keeping me on the path so far. It is supposed to be the same in salvation. The church of Acts is the model to emulate and so are the others that Paul wrote to in his letters. They prayed with and for each other; they shared in the breaking of the bread of life as well as bread for the stomach; they shared their possessions; they encouraged each other and rebuked one another in love and so they grew, spiritually and in number.
What Is More Profitable?
People join gyms for different reasons. I interacted with people who want to be ripped so they can look their best. I saw people who were eager to lose weight so they can feel some sort of way about themselves. Finally, I saw people like me: people who knew that they could get away with eating unhealthy and no exercise and no one would ever know; people who knew that they were there for the ‘inside’ – that which no one might ever see but which is important in the short run and the long run as well. It reminded me of Jesus referring to the teachers of the law as whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27&28): they looked clean on the outside but were full of deadness on the inside. I don’t want to be a whitewashed tomb. I want that which is outside to show that which is already on the inside, not just with my body (which is a temple) but in all areas of my life. Again, 1st Timothy 4:8 echoed anew in me.
It’s interesting how we can see and learn so much if we are open to it. God doesn’t waste opportunities and so the Holy Spirit quickens us to and reminds us of scripture in various contexts for our growth and ultimately for His glory.
These were just a few lessons from a rookie’s first week at the gym. Guys, seriously, remember me in your prayers because I don’t want it to also be my last week at the gym 😀