Nine months ago, my children started a new school and I started working out at the gym. I promised myself I would go Monday-Friday the entire school year and do my very best to get fit. Nine months later I wish I could say I am thin and muscle-bound, but that would be a lie. I did run my first 1/2 marathon and I can now bench press more than just the bar and I even worked my way up to doing 20 push-ups – which for me is pretty amazing, but I still have a long way to go.
Despite the gains in endurance and strength, I have felt discouraged by the lack of weight loss and one of the hardest days came when I needed to go into the “guys” side of the gym. You see, my gym is divided in 1/2. One one side is all the weight lifting machines along with some dumbells (up to 20 lbs). On the other side is the free weights – it is what I refer to as the “guys” side because I never see any women over there. But the time had come that I needed to go over there.
The first day when I walked in, I felt like a wounded fish jumping into a shark pond. Ok, so there was only one guy on that side but he made it clear that I did not belong. I ignored his mocking gaze and overt laughter and eye rolls and just kept my head down and did my workout. But it felt awful and I wanted to run from the room in shame. While I tried to seem as if I belonged, like this was normal and I was completely comfortable, it wasn’t true and he and I both knew it.
I walked out that day discouraged and defeated and I didn’t want to go back.
The next day, I went back into the gym and did a run before standing awkwardly outside the locker room trying to justify doing anything other than weights. That’s when I bumped into God.
“Go.” He said.
“I don’t want to.” I answered honestly.
“I know. Now go.” He replied.
“I don’t want to be mocked.”
“Yea, that is hard, it happened to me too. But I went anyway.”
Sigh….how do you argue with that? I stood there a minute longer contemplating, dreading.
“Go.” He said, a bit more forcefully, an edge of impatience coming through.
So I went. God’s interest in my workout routine encouraged me that perhaps today was the day I would turn it around. Perhaps today I would walk into that room a middle-aged woman in need of a good exercise program and walk out a stunning 20 something, a warrior with muscles to spare.
The room was empty with the exception of one man. It was evident this wasn’t his first day. He glanced up at me as I entered the room, our eyes met briefly and he nodded as men do and then went back to loading weight on the bench press bar.
I found the weights I needed and set to work feeling self-conscious and trying not to make any further contact. Less than a minute after I entered the room something happened.
The guy was doing bench press and he was lifting a LOT of weight. I don’t know exactly how much but it was a lot based on the number of plates on the bar and the size of those plates. Out of the corner of my eye, I had registered the bar raising and lowering multiple times. But apparently, he had attempted one too many lifts and the bar was now on his neck pinning him to the bench. This took a few seconds for me to register.
I stopped what I was doing and paid attention, I wasn’t 100% sure he was in distress and I didn’t want to rush over and offer aid if no aid was needed. He would think I was a lurking loon. But within a second or two it was obvious he needed help. The bar was on this throat preventing him from calling out but his eyes were wide and staring right at me. That realization startled me into action. I put my weights down and began moving toward him while asking, “do you need some help,” but of course he couldn’t answer.
When I reached him I reached out for the bar and started to lift. Then several thoughts entered my head at once. 1)I realized just how heavy that weight was and that my contribution to lifting it was not going to be very much. 2)I became overly aware that I was standing over his face and 3)I worried about how stinky I might be because I had been sweating. Now I realize these are stupid thoughts in the midst of a life and death situation, but they were what I was thinking.
I wish I could say that I said a little prayer and God gave me Samson like strength to lift that bar off the guy, because wouldn’t that be awesome? But that isn’t what happened. Instead, I pulled with all my might and said to the poor half dying guy, “you are going to have to push because this is a lot of weight.” I was at a very awkward angle so I was trying to pull the weight up from off center (ok fine, I admit I stepped beside his head so I wouldn’t be straddling it). Between us both, we barely got the bar back up and in position.
I quickly walked away with a muttered apology for being so sweaty. He sat for a minute and rubbed his throat before offering a raspy thanks to my back and then moving on to his next exercise. I didn’t look at him again, I did my workout, he did his and then he left.
It was not until later that night that I had a chance to reflect on what had really happened. God had known that guy would need help and He had arranged for help to be there, even if that help came in the form of a woman who at the time was only bench pressing the bar. Certainly not the obvious choice for the job.
I had hesitated to go into that section of the gym out of fear. But God pushed because He had much bigger plans than my personal workout, He had a life to save, He had a child in distress, a child that needed saving and I was to be the tool He would use. That man pushed his body past his own capabilities that day and God sent him help when he needed it most. Had I refused, had I let my own fear and pride stop me….how could I have lived with that?
I was busy thinking about myself, my feelings, my shortcomings but God was busy ignoring all that and using me to accomplish His will in His way simply because I was obedient. I was reminded that sometimes the things God calls us to do have nothing at all to do with us.
Sometimes he calls us into unfamiliar surroundings and uncomfortable situations not to make us better but to help someone else. Sometimes, we aren’t the recipient, we are the tool. Don’t let fear or pride keep you from showing up.