Working out and Follwing Jesus – Part 4: the Truth of the Matter

June 24th, 2009

I got sucked into working out with the Fitness Manager at my 24 Hour Fitness today. I walked in, stopped at the front desk to have my card scanned as usual, and he stopped to ask what I had planned for my workout that day. Now, they have a pretty friendly staff at my gym, but I kinda had a feeling that he wasn’t just asking to be nice. I used to have his job, I know how it works. This is how you sell training.

A few minutes later I’d agreed to let him give me a workout (meaning, convince me how badly I need training from him for an hour, then back it up with a 25 minute workout). But I was feeling lazy and unmotivated that day, and knew I could use the push. I’ve also been asking God for opportunities to meet people at the gym, at the store, in my neighborhood, etc., to build relationships and reach those who don’t yet have a relationship with Jesus. I figured this was an open door, so I took it.

For slightly less than an hour, we talked about my goals, my current workout, my nutrition, etc. I already knew about 90% of what he said, and had preached the same message to others multiple times. I nodded along and agreed with just about everything that came out of his mouth. And I admitted how I knew exactly what I needed to do but often didn’t do it.

Finally we worked out for a bit, wearing out my legs and figuring out some of my knee problems. We got along great, had some laughs, and I sweated like crazy. It was a good time. And then of course we sat back down so he could tell me how much training would cost, how he’d like to help me, how we’d work well together, etc. Again, I agreed with all that he said. I was a personal trainer, so of course I know and appreciate the value. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having a trainer to push me – if they weren’t so dang expensive!

I thanked him for his time, said I’d think about it (terrible thing to hear when you’re on his side of the desk), and finished up with some cardio on my own.

Maybe it was my need to people-please and have people like me; or my desire to get more opportunities to talk about God with him (there were some brief ones when we got to the money thing); or maybe the combination of that plus my own guilt of knowing I’ve been slacking in the gym….but the whole way home and the rest of the night, I went back and forth on the idea of purchasing training. The whole scenario was in my mind and I couldn’t get it out…still can’t.

As I drove I pondered why this was sticking in my brain so much. Why I felt like I should buy training, when the whole time I was thinking ‘oh gosh, don’t try to sell me, I’m not buying, leave me alone’. Partially, he was a great guy, not a completely annoying salesman. And he gave me a good workout. Yet he told me nothing revolutionary, and the workout was nothing I couldn’t have imagined up on my own if I’d tried. If I essentially knew almost everything he said and showed me, why was I actually feeling a little guilty and wondering if I should buy training? I’m practically immune to salesmen, I can’t stand them. I almost never succumb unless I already know I need what they have to sell.

The answer, I concluded, was that even though I already knew everything he said, and knew what I should be doing, he called me out. He pointed out every area that I wasn’t doing what I knew what to do and put into words the thoughts I’d been pushing to the side. He brought my weakness to light and exposed my faulty thinking and behavior. It was fine when I knew it, but didn’t have to acknowledge it or be accountable to anyone else. I could deceive myself, I could rationalize away my bad decisions. All along I knew where I was making mistakes and deceiving myself. But as soon as someone else saw it and spoke it out loud, it became much more real and weighty.

I thought about going back to the gym every day in the future, aware that I was no longer just another face in the gym. Now there’s someone who knows what I’m doing and not doing. It’s like he’s keeping me accountable just by being there and seeing me. Like I can’t hide anymore. There was a moment of temptation to avoid him at the gym and not want him to see me there anymore – to ‘runaway’ in a sense. That cleared pretty quickly because I’m not that much of a wuss. But next came the clarity that I have to own up to this. Whether it’s buying training to fix the problem, or simply admitting to myself that I need to step it up and the committing to discipline and good choices (to ‘prove him wrong’).

Then I noticed the parallel between my gym experience and physical conundrum, and the spiritual one of telling people about Christ. People hate being told what they’re doing is wrong. Often, they run away (happens all the time with ministry in Hollywood. Literally, they run away and book it in the opposite direction of us as soon as we say ‘Christian’ or ‘bible’ or ‘Jesus’.) And it’s frustrating, to tell you the truth. I think “when is anyone ever going to get this? Or accept it? Or acknowledge their brokenness?”

And it made me think that the manager who just spent 1.5 hours with me probably saw a similar picture in front of him. Stubbornness, self-assurance, arrogance even. (which is when I realized I should probably apologize for coming off that way next time we talk!) But inside my mind was reeling after we talked.

Those people we talk to about Christ have probably, at some point in their lives or even on a daily basis, considered their purpose, their existence, their lack of hope, their brokenness. And asked questions and dismissed God and come up with faulty logic and theology. But left unchallenged, they can keep lying to themselves and live a life that contradicts what they really know deep down. When someone calls that out and brings it to life, it shakes them up and makes them uncomfortable because they’ll have to face the lies they’ve been hiding behind and the truth they’ve been stifling. Some will push it down further and further until they hide it enough to go on living as they’ve been living – until someone else down the road brings it up again. Others might try to push it away, but will be left with that nagging feeling and finding themselves facing truth and decisions to make about it. And we may never know which they are, because the outward appearance is deceiving.

Maybe these are some of the people that keep hanging out, non-committal and unemotional, but lingering just enough to hear a little bit more truth so they can work through their questions. Maybe they need some time to count the cost, just like I have to with training (of course, it’s a little different with the physical because that ‘cost’ is about me, when really I could use that money for someone else). But to tease out my analogy – I was left counting the cost of doing what I knew I needed to do. Either spending the money to have someone else keep me accountable, or to step up my own training and nutrition to live what I have been believing but not actually living out 100%.

And if a person buys training, they usually don’t just jump into that. You have to weigh if it’s really worth it. Because if you don’t commit, it’s a waste. To make it worth it, you truly have to commit and change the way you’ve been living. And you know that if you commit, it will all be worth it. It’s hard work, but you’ll get results.

Same with choosing Christ. You don’t just jump in lightly to that decision. Because when you do it changes the way you’ve been living, do live, and will live, forever. You have to commit to something radically different. And according to the bible, being lukewarm about it is not an option. But when you do commit, you know you all of the sacrifices will be worth it.

So oddly enough, my one evening of working out with a trainer at the gym opened my eyes to see a bit more of what it’s like for those who are weighing the option of Christ. He’s been my only option for most o
f my life, so I don’t always understand. Now I know I need a bit more patience, understanding, and willingness to provide facts and reason and truth over and over. Like the trainers at the gym, I need to live in a way that holds other accountable to the lies they’re living, without having to say anything. As a good trainer who practices what he preaches demonstrates through his appearance and physical abilities that the hard work and following the truth gets results -I have to live my own life in a way that proves that the cost is completely worth it.

And eventually, we either all deny the truth and go our own way, or we realize that facing the truth will lead us exactly where we want to be

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