Over the next few days, I will be reflecting on finding grace at the gym, namely Abilene’s YMCA in Redbud Park.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have been trying to make it to the gym more regularly over the past few months.
The last time I spent any significant time at a gym, I was rowing crew. In that context, all of the people exercising were ostensibly working toward the same goal; we were all trying to make the boat move as fast as possible. In other words, we were pushing each other to be the best that we could be (just a warning: there will probably more clichés than usual in this post). As a result, we tended to compete with one another. Coaches would place people with similar erg scores (an erg is a torture device designed to simulate the movements of rowing) near one another so that we would push each other to the next level (cliché #2). For the most part, I thrived in this environment. I am a naturally competitive person, and I found that competing against my fellow athletes effectively motivated me to improve.
Since I’ve returned to the gym, however, I’ve had to overcome my inherently competitive nature. The main reason for this is that unlike at the gym where I worked out with my teammates, each person who works out at the Abilene YMCA is at a different level and has set different goals. It is unproductive for me to compare myself to the person who is working out on the next elliptical because they have a totally different objective than I do. It is foolish for me to race the person in the next lane of the pool, because more often than not they will beat me and I will be embarrassed. My exercise time is far more productive when I set goals for myself and attempt to meet those, rather than making comparisons to everyone else at the gym.
We live in a culture that is preoccupied with competition. Whether it is the newness of our smartphone or the size of our house or the level of our education or the difficulty of our Lenten discipline, we tend to be obsessed with comparing ourselves to other people. We must recognize, however, that God does not care if we keep up with Joneses. God’s relationship with us is not contingent on any criteria except God’s abundant love. Our objective for our relationship with God should not be to be holier than anyone else; our goal should be to discover ways that we can be deeply aware of how much God loves us and how much God loves our brothers and sisters in Christ.