Those of you who’ve hung out on The Couch for the last few years know how much I loathe exercise. Hate it. I would consider it supreme torture to be a fitness class instructor. I have friends who do this, and they love it, and they are very good at their jobs – but truly, I would rather have every last hair on my body removed one by one with tweezers. Actually, I would rather sit in front of my TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but that’s not going to do anything to save me from back surgery in twenty-five years.
So I do it. I exercise. Specifically, I submit myself to the torture named Body Pump, which is a one hour, straight-from-Satan class involving a barbell, weight plates, and squats. Lots of squats. Which are also straight-from-Satan.
Why would I subject myself to something I so dramatically loathe? Because a few years ago, my mom had back surgery. My mom, like me, is a small-framed, skinny white woman with low blood pressure and zero endurance. Which is why she rarely exercised. Which is why her discs bulged or collapsed or whatever. Which is why she ended up in the OR – and took an entire nine months to fully recover, to be able to drive more than a few minutes, to sit more than a few minutes. She missed an entire year of active living.
Seeing her in so much pain, using a walker, wearing a back brace, rustled up some determination in me. That will not be me, I thought. No way. So I joined a gym, took a strength training class once a week, and tried to fit in an extra day or two of cardio – all while eating Ben & Jerry’s and remaining a slender 115 pounds.
Oh, early thirties. You were kind to me. I miss you.
Hello, thirty-nine. You are evil. You and all your extra “skin.” You betray me.
After an entire summer of laziness productivity distraction, I have laser focus now. Alarm goes off, coffee maker goes on, kids leave, and I hit the gym. Hello, weight plates. Good-bye, squishy white skin.
Last week, I did something I’ve never done before. It was pretty astonishing. I sweated through two Body Pump classes, Tuesday and Friday – spaced just far enough apart that I still had enough strength to walk into class on Friday.
Tuesday morning was hard. Really hard. I didn’t even put as much weight on my bar as I normally do because I hadn’t been there in so long – but it still killed me. And, boy howdy, my muscles screamed at me on Wednesday and Thursday, pleading with me to never, ever do that again.
Back surgery. Squishy white skin. Sorry, screaming quads and biceps. You’re coming with me to another class.
You know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, I felt great. No one was more surprised than me. And over the weekend, my muscles kept their mouths shut. Just tiny little whimpers. No screaming.
Here’s what I love about my instructors: they celebrate the fact that I am there. They don’t mind if I rest for a couple of reps. They don’t care that I’m lifting a measly ten pounds on my bar while their own is stacked with some multiple of ten. “You are here,” they say, “and that is better than not being here. Do what you can.”
Also, “If you feel like you can keep going at the end of this track, then next time, you need to add more weight to your bar.” If it’s too easy, I’m not working hard enough.
So I push myself, chanting silently, Back surgery. Squishy white skin. Back surgery. Squishy white skin. I rest when I have to, but then I pick up that bar and keep going. And when I’m ready, I do more – add another plate, go to an additional class – and discover I’m stronger than I think.
That’s the place I think many of us land when it comes to Interrupted. God and Jen Hatmaker have ruined us and turned us inside out. We know we’re disgustingly privileged, and we know God wants us to think and act differently, to serve, to love. But we don’t know where to start. We want to get rid of the squishy white skin and avoid back surgery, but we’re standing in front of a ginormous rack of weight plates, unsure of how strong we really are, a little frightened by the idea of brokenness.
So grab a bar, grab some plates. You are here. And that is better than not being here. Let’s get started.
This chapter (“Early Spring 2007”) rocked my world. Like 6.0 on the Richter scale.
Jesus didn’t just host and serve the meal; He became the meal. He was the sacrificial Lamb, broken for the redemption of humanity, forever our feast and sustenance…when He said, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me,’ it required continuous action…Remembrance means honoring Jesus’ mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice…Not only was communion a symbolic ritual, it was a new prototype of discipleship. ‘Continuously make My sacrifice real by doing this very thing.’ Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity…We don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal. (pgs. 52-55, emphasis mine)
Being the body of Christ, a temple of His spirit, living like Him – that means, like Him, I am to be broken and poured out for the sake of others. It means that, like Him, I am to sacrifice my comfort, my privilege, my rights, so that someone else may live.
Which leads me to The Aftershock following Earthquake 6.0. Who do we serve?
This is a sticking point with many of us. The “for you” part of the Eucharist story addresses the twelve disciples. Eleven of them, although a ragtag bunch of hooligans at the time, went on to travel the globe (at least the parts they knew about), write the Bible, and lose their lives for its sake.
If I’m picking whom I sacrifice for, I’m thinking future martyrs, gospel writers, and world changers. I love to pour into believers who take Jesus seriously. (pg. 56)
And then there is Judas. Yep. Judas the slimy snake who took the money and ran. Judas who played no further role in the story. Judas who ended up swinging by the neck on a tree branch.
The same Judas Jesus called by name. The same Judas who listened as Jesus talked and followed where He walked. The same Judas who sat as Jesus washed his feet. The same Judas who received the bread and the wine.
That Judas. Jesus was talking to him when He said, “This is my body given for you” and “This is my blood, which is poured out for you.”
We don’t like that part.
Judas represents “those who would turn on me in spite of what I sacrificed or why.” (pg. 57) God commands us – by word and by example – to be broken and poured out for those who will be ungrateful, who will be abusive, who will take advantage of our kindness and trash it.
This was one reason I was detached from the margins, citing irresponsibility and recklessness and thanklessness. They’ll spend it on booze. Government is corrupt and shouldn’t be helped. Get off your lazy butt and get a job, and then we’ll talk. I was shockingly ignorant about the cycles of poverty and addiction. (pg. 57-58)
We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. Must we be wise? Absolutely. But doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission. Turning a blind eye to the bottom on the grounds of “unworthiness” is the antithesis to Jesus’ entire mission. (pg. 58)
For me, this is where the weeds and wheat parable enters (Matthew 13:24-30). Only God knows the motives of each person, and that’s what He values most. I am not responsible for what someone does with a gift; I am only responsible for giving. Cheerfully. I’d rather err on the side of mercy and let God sort out the harvest.
The What: broken and poured out. The Who: everyone. That’s where we begin. That’s the starting line. One bicep curl at a time, we will get stronger, we will accomplish more. The brokenness will be our freedom, our strength, our greatest joy. For now, just show up. Do what you can. Push yourself. If it’s too easy, work harder.
You are stronger than you think.
PS: Check out Caroline‘s take on this chapter. She rocks it.