At the studio I manage we recently replaced our well worn tired looking exercise mats for brand new cushy and comfortable mats.
I was thinking about the hours those old mats have seen and the weight of the members’ worries they have carried. So many people young and old have done endless crunches on them in pursuit of a flat stomach. Then there are the pelvic tilts for the perfect butt, side leg lifts for outer and inner thighs and OH the push ups, the begrudgingly done push ups.
Why do we spend so many hours on these mats inflicting such pain on ourselves?
Lets be honest, a good majority of the time its to fit in; to be accepted in a world where the quest for the perfect ‘body’ is admired and held at such high standards. For those willing to work hard enough you can have whatever you want.
You have stretch marks cause you had a baby? Well there is away to get rid of them.
Your arms wobble a lot more then they use to? Well you must do more push ups.
Love handles? side crunches.
Saddle bags? lift those thighs, get to work.
I have seen so many people FIGHT their bodies on those mats! I see the inner dialogue on my participants’ faces daily.
“Are you kidding me stomach? You did not look like that in high school, I can’t believe I let this happen, what the hell is wrong with me? It was that damn ice cream last night! Why can’t I get my act together like that perfect person next to me! I am going to KILL myself before my flabby stomach will live to see another day! “
So I ask myself what’s the ROOT? Here is what I am learning.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” 1 John 4:18
WHAT? You lost me Ira?
Stay with me, We long for better bodies so we can appear what? …… more ‘attractive‘ right?
Therefore we exercise and punish our bodies in order to be attractive.
But what are we trying to attract? LOVE….acceptance…..relationship……approval……
And what are we AFRAID of? being alone, rejected, left out, being unLOVABLE.
So what am I trying to say? Well remember those new mats? We are already putting them to good use at the gym, carrying the weight of new worries.
But what happen to the old mats?
On Tuesday mornings I make breakfast for the homeless with a group of volunteers. A fellow manager at the gym was getting ready to chuck our old mats in the trash when she thought this seems wasteful, maybe I will ask Ira if they can use them at that homeless shelter. A phone conversation later these mats are now carrying the weight of a whole other level of worry. It’s -10 today and as I drop off the mats to the shelter one of the outreach workers was thrilled because just yesterday a homeless man was asking if there were any type of mats available that he could have.
I have to tell you I am physically shaking as I write this blog, because I believe this illustration has the power to massively shift your perspective.
A homeless person maybe seen as lazy, unproductive, or a burden on society and I confess I use to think this way I would ask myself ”are we just enabling them?” But I have learned there is a story behind each one. What I now see a person who is riding on their last thread of hope, whether it be covering pains with addiction, sorting out their mental health, running away from abuse or compounding circumstance after circumstance has left them with nothing. Each of those people CARRY a burden of worry very different from those using an exercise mat at the gym. So here is that part where I say suck it up, it’s just exercise you could be homeless and guilt you into a grateful workout.
That’s not where I am going. I want you to seriously think about something.
Is that homeless persons needs and worries really that different than yours?
Whether I am using the exercise mat to punish my flabby butt, or to keep a layer between me and the cold frosted ground, what do we BOTH need? LOVE, acceptance, relationship, approval.
As a Christian I am called to LOVE that is it. PERIOD. Will my love always be perfect… NO cause I cannot help being selfish at times, but God’s Love is perfect, and that’s my model.
You see when LOVE, approval, acceptance, relationship is given freely despite a person’s baggage, mistakes…..flabby thighs, wobbly arms, saggy butts, wrinkles, cellulite and the list goes on, it leaves NO room left to FEAR. Fear and Love cannot exist together.
If I am freely given LOVE and APPROVAL, my workout is no longer a fight, no longer driven by FEAR. I do not need to be perfect BUT I do want to be my best so I can give my best. What does my best look like? Serving and blessing those around me, that are just like me, and are looking for the same love I am seeking.
One last question.
With FEAR gone what is left?
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13