When I was young I was smart and skinny without trying. People thought I was funny and I had enough friends. There was no need for exercise. Certainly not competitive sports. When I was older, aside from not being skinny, I was always in pain, and I didn’t have experience, tools, or muscles to help me. I had to learn to exercise.
One gray day during my captivity as a mom of toddler twins, Chris came home smiling and announced that we were getting gym memberships for Christmas. I glowered at him. Was he saying I was fat? He explained that the gym had free childcare for 2 hours a day, so I could go do my physical therapy, or I could sit in a lounge chair and read a book. I kept giving him the stink eye but ended up going to get my picture taken for the membership card and bribing the babies with jelly beans to go to childcare without screaming.
Oh, how I loathe the gym. The PTSD from Jump Rope for Heart at Hawthorn Elementary. The smell of chlorine, butt sweat, bitter coffee, and black rubber. Nubile college girls with long legs and dewy skin. Manic instructors yelling “COME ON LADIES!” down the hall. Married people flirting. Mirrors everywhere. The naked henhouse of the locker room. Stepping in a shower strewn with other women’s hair. Grunting men. Skeevy leering gold chain wearing men. Weight throwing men. People farting on treadmills. It’s all so human. Most days I sighed when I parked my car.
But I kept going. Because I needed it.
At first I didn’t understand the cultural expectations of basic interaction at the gym. Was I supposed to say hi to everyone who made eye contact? When should I try to learn their names – the 5th time we see each other, the 50th? In group classes how was I supposed to know I was in that girl’s regular spot, and now her whole crew had to move to a new part of the room? How come no one told me the ice machine withholds and then suddenly spits out ice all over the floor when you walk away?
But I kept going. Because I needed it.
I found a good class. The instructor seemed like a normal person, who encouraged and challenged us without frenzy or plastic smiles. My classmates had the same goals. I learned how to breathe in yoga and grow strong muscles in pilates. I fell down laughing attempting handstands and crow poses. I found confidence and liked myself in brand new ways. I became more graceful.
I kept going. I needed it.
If I’m honest, going to church feels like going to the gym. I often sigh in the parking lot and dread walking in. The greeter smiles too big. I don’t like the smell of the new floor polish, or is that the incense? Are the flowers already wilted? Are they asking for money? Are they talking about politics? Will those moms be friendly this week?
The people and all the cultural expectations are harder at church. The stakes are higher. It’s not just about belly fat and endurance. Now it’s about my soul and the Master of the Universe. I might be able to ignore someone watching me lift weights, but it’s hard when I know someone is watching me worship.
Sometimes some new family is sitting in my row. The guy I don’t like is preaching. The songs are too hard for a non-singer. My kids kick each other. I want to play on my phone. I go to the water fountain instead of passing the peace.
But I keep going. Because I need it.
Sometimes I cry in church. When a song echoes the longing in my heart. Or the teaching feels like life-saving surgery. When someone lovingly rests their hand on my child’s head. And when I wait in line for communion, desperate to taste and see that God really is good.
It’s humbling. I need help if I want to change the way things are in my body and soul. I have to keep choosing to be informed, taught, and corrected by the Holy Spirit and muscled people who know more than me. I long for all kinds of transformation.
I don’t have a church or a gym these days. Since we moved to Georgia all of my fatigue, introversion, sensory issues, and cultural differences make entering new community hard. In Illinois we went to a charismatic Anglican church and a neighborhood club. These days we’re visiting a Southern Baptist church and I’m using a groupon for Pure Barre classes. It’s strange.
But I’m going to keep looking. For a church and a gym. Because I need it.
- Wrecked – Did a car accident ruin or save my life?
- My Surrender Begins – Does Jesus want to ruin or save me?
You are loved.
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2016.