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Wisdom From the Gym

The happy pill I take each day is at my local gym. The older I get, the less I can do without it. Thanks to Bill Phillips and his warm personality and inspiring videos I picked up my first pair of 5 lb. weights about seven years ago. As silly as I felt, as out of place and wimpy with all those burly manly types around me heaving 80lbs and grunting like cavemen, I was hooked. There is absolutely nothing like the sheer joy of a million giddy endorphins frolicking through the body.

Now for those of you who snub all those diets and the three thousand aerobic options at your local gym, let me commiserate with you for a moment. First, diets stink; they make me feel starved and nervous. Second, most aerobic classes are an hour long, and who has an hour? Yes and those gym people do seem a little bit consumed with their work-outs, don’t they? Two hours nightly? Are you kidding me?

But weights aren’t like diets or long aerobic workouts. What nobody ever mentioned to me before I (virtually) met the Bill man, was how lifting up heavy chunks of metal for very short periods of time not only turned my body into a machine that needed more food—a nice problem to have—but that it would also give me a sweet and natural buzz. Thirty minutes of lifting and I’m tingly all over.

The reason I bring all this up is because my weight training has recently been of great service to my emotional maturity. As with most of us, I have a few people in my life who drive me crazy. I do not choose to orbit their sphere, but somehow, into every life, a little group of these people must fall. I call them joy vacuums; mostly because they seem to suck up all the joy like a Hoover on dirt.

And so it was that someone whose name isn’t Jane entered my life. Maybe she was abused as kid, maybe she was bitter. Whatever it was, she had enough unacknowledged pain to drive dysfunction through the most secure of relationships. Jane could twist up the best situation with just a few words.

Well, after one particularly intense Jane encounter I was frustrated and muttering my way to the gym when something fantastic hit me. I had donned the robes and picked up a gavel and was passing judgment on Jane right there in my car when suddenly the word dumbbell began ringing in my head. It actually entered trapped in a sentence. Jane is a dumbbell… Jane is a dumbbell… a huge grin stretched over my face.

Now before you think I’m mean, let me connect the dots. As a student of the teachings of Jesus, I know that the practice of love is my destiny. Love, simply put, is bestowing tangible acts of favor. Jesus taught that to feel and honor God we’d have to bestow favor on everyone—especially the Janes of the world, and as hard as this could be, He promised it would grow us up and make us emotionally mature.

What I also was very aware of was that bestowing favor on mean people is a slow-grow kind of learned behavior that I’ve never been too good at. If unconditionally loving people who loved me was at the bottom of the chart, and loving people who were crucifying me and my family were at the top—see Matthew 5:38-43—then I pretty much maxed out near the bottom somewhere.

So here it is. Dumbbell is the endearing term used for heavy metal objects one hoists at the gym to build muscle. Dumbbells (thank you gravity) create resistance that when pushed and pulled against, builds strength. Jane was my emotional dumbbell. She created resistance that would enable me to build muscle, the love muscle. If I stayed focused and repeatedly bestowed favor while she resisted, then just like my biceps, my heart was going to grow strong and mature. I actually needed her. Rightly “used,” she would make me buff enough to love like Jesus.

I grinned all the way to the gym that day. Yes, and now when I run into somebody who is up there on the “who to love anyway” chart of Jesus Christ, I flex and grunt like the best of my manly gym friends. Bring it on!

Clarissa Worley Sproul writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Clarissa Worley Sproul

Clarissa Worley Sproul

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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