There’s few things I dislike more than getting in shape. Sure, after a month of beating your body into submission, training the will and expanding your lungs, running and lifting feels slightly less torturous and you can start appreciating the endorphin high. It’s the initial days of stretching out your joints which have rusted into place after eating cheese and re-watching the first season of “Glee” that are brutal.
Like anyone in their twenties, the last several summers have become completely dedicated to weddings. While I love dressing up, it’s a reality check when you log onto Facebook that Monday to find that you’ve been tagged in multiple pictures which showcase your un-toned arms. One summer with that on your record and the motivation to exercise comes much easier. I do not want my Facebook legacy to be “fat bridesmaid”.
Even though the motivation was there, the thought of a gym left me feeling really unsettled. I put if off for a long time because I had visions of walking in and encountering the cast of “Jersey Shore”— sculpted, tanned, toned and teased. Rather than suffer such comparisons, I made some feeble attempts to get in shape on my own. This quickly left me bored—you can only do so many pilates from youtube before you lose your motivation and it’s hard to push yourself in the comfort of your own home, when no one is watching. Clearly, a gym was my only hope for actually getting in shape.
Much like the kids who are afraid of kindergarten because they don’t know how to read and people who think they are too sick to go to the doctor, it was illogical to think I had to be in shape to join a gym. I finally just went and found that while there are a few who approach Spinning with the intensity of an Olympiad (your bike is NOT MOVING! Calm down, would ya?) many are like me—pasty, average and just hoping to shed a few pounds to look good for the summer. Furthermore, there’s a camaraderie that exists among people working towards a similar goal that you just can’t get from watching “Buns of Steel” alone in your living room. A little competition encourages intensity.
Many approach religion or church with the same hesitancy. Just as I feared encountering a level of fitness that I couldn’t live up to, they expect to encounter sanctity that will make them feel inadequate. They think church is just a place for Mother Teresa and Billy Graham to have coffee and doughnuts and there’s no place for real people with real problems and sin. However, much like I could never have changed my body if if I didn't take that initial plunge and allow myself to be challenged by trainers and those around me, our souls cannot change if we attempt to do it all on our own.
Any Church community will be full of people who are very advanced in their walk with God as well as those who are just starting out. Holiness is not a competition, but we benefit from witnessing how others have handled the same challenges we face, much like I was motivated by those who could run faster and lift more than me.
In the Gospel of John, Christ reminds us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4-5). Taking the steps to be connected can be intimidating, but unless we are connected to Christ we cannot grow.