This is a guest post from Katie Karras – a communications consultant in Washington, DC and proud member of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church in Arlington, VA who has guest posted on my blog before. You can follow her on twitter, @KatieKarras. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
This January, like thousands across the country, I made a resolution to lose weight and be healthy. So after doing some online research, I made my way to the neighborhood gym to meet with the sales team. Having read a lot about how gyms try to rip you off with random fees and entice you with perks, I went in skeptical but feeling prepared.
The staff was welcoming, they gave me the best deal they could, and I signed up. However, not fully convinced that I would be the 10% that keeps up with their resolutions every year, I decided on a month-to-month membership. This allowed me an easy “out” when things got tough, but still made me feel like I was committed to my health.
Let me just say that this is not the first gym I’ve joined, or my first attempt to get in shape. Like most women, I’ve tried about 5 gyms and 5 other “at home” work out programs in an attempt to get in shape. This time, I told myself, it would be different.
About a month in, I can really say it is. I have motivation, time, encouragement, and a specific goal, but sometimes the gym doesn’t make it easier.
There are so many factors that can keep me home in my PJs; the cold, my insecurities, the fact that I’ve failed before, my uncertainty, but all that is compounded when I walk into the gym of seemingly perfect people who look like they know what they’re doing.
When I struggle to get the equipment to adjust after a man leg pressed 1,000 pounds, when I feel stares from others in the mirror and wonder if it was silly to think I could pull off the matching gym outfit, when I hear a snarky comment about how I’m not cleaning the equipment correctly, when I get offered prescription drugs that would “help shed those pounds off quick” (all true stories) without realizing it, any one of those people could send me right back to my couch and that gallon of ice cream in my fridge “for emergencies.”
As I contemplated giving the sales representative a piece of my mind for conning me into joining this hypocritical institution, I started to realize, a gym is a lot like a church.
People come wanting to be healthy, wanting to get back in “shape,” but they also come with their previous experiences, broken hearts, skepticism, and that aching feeling that this is just another church that will disappoint.
Just as I walk in the gym and immediately notice the most fit on the gym room floor, these people walk into churches and see “spiritual body-builders” and people that seemingly have it all figured out. What they don’t see are the years of hard work leading up to a foundational relationship with God.
As someone who’s grown up in the church, it’s pretty easy to dismiss those people as “not invested” or accuse them of needing to take ownership of their own spiritual lives regardless of how they feel when they walk into church, and while it’s true that sometimes there are personal issues and histories that need to be overcome, we needn’t add one more obstacle to the pile of discouragement.
It’s great that the front desk manager and sales representative and personal trainer all greet me with a smile, but that’s their job. It’s much more encouraging when a fellow gym member shows me how to use a machine, or gives me a heads up that the treadmill to the left is broken, or just smiles an encouraging smile after my last squat. That means more because it’s a sign that they understand that no matter the internal struggle that I had of getting off my couch and into my icy car, I made it to the gym and am making an effort.
At the end of the day it is a personal responsibility to take ownership of our spiritual (and physical) well-being, but we can always afford to give a little grace and remember our own journey and struggle to health.