A little over two months ago, a friend finally talked my husband and I into trying one of those fitness camps – the kind where you meet up with a group of strangers in a parking lot with your workout mat, some hand weights, and a giant bottle filled with ice water, and a trainer shows up to guide you through a series of strength training, agility exercises, and, of course, some running. I had been hesitant to try it out, afraid that I wasn’t anywhere near in good enough shape, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, afraid that it would be too hard. But we showed up – and I lost my breath. I had to stop and take breaks even though I was only using small weights. I worked as hard as I was able to, encouraged by the trainer to work at my own pace, and by her chant, ‘as long as you’re moving, you’re improving.’ Though there was sweat during the workout and an aching in my muscles afterward, it felt like good work…so I went back again and again.
And now, just a couple of months later, I’m seeing some results. I don’t run out of breath quite as quickly. I already feel a bit stronger (I’ve even gone up a few pounds on the weights!). The people I met are no longer all strangers. Though there are times (especially early mornings) that it is hard to convince myself to go – I do.
I go because I know that it is good for me, but I also go because of the people that we meet. These people help to hold me accountable, offer encouragement and support, share with me as I struggle, and we work together toward better health. They offer a sense of community.
Like joining a gym, you may hear of people who don’t want to come to church because they aren’t “in shape” yet. They may feel intimidated by a group of “strangers” or by the “hard work” they will be asked to do. And it is hard work – but we’re in this work together.
We have the opportunity to serve as a community that offers encouragement and support to one another. We have the opportunity to serve as a community that offers to meet people at their “fitness” level and to help them as they grow stronger in their faith. We have the opportunity to show up again and again together to participate in sharing God’s life-giving love with all.