For the next few days, I will be reflecting on finding grace at the gym, specifically Abilene’s YMCA in Redbud Park.
Over the past several months, I have been trying to make it to the gym more regularly.
Though I have been a member of the Abilene YMCA for several years, I’ve only just recently started exercising there with any regularity. When I first became a member I was surprised (even shocked) by the number of naked people I saw on a daily basis. The locker room was full of men disporting in the altogether, not at all concerned with the fact that they were naked. For all I know, many of them might not have even realized that they were unclothed. The last time I had spent any significant time in a locker room was when I and my teammates were still emerging from the throes of puberty, that time when boys are convinced that no one could possibly be experiencing the same things that they are experiencing. In light of the embarrassment inherent to this condition, all of us had concocted various byzantine methods of changing out of our workout clothes while revealing as little skin as possible. So it was more than a little surprising that in this locker room experience, pretense was abandoned and people paraded around shamelessly (and pantslessly) for everyone to see.
While I was initially shocked by the overabundance of skin in the YMCA locker room, I have gradually gotten to a point where the predominance of nakedness doesn’t bother me a whole lot. I’ve even found myself having long conversations with gentlemen who are wearing nothing but a smile (even though I continue to remain covered up, at least relative to my locker room counterparts). I’ve been wondering about the reason for the shift in my perspective. On one hand, I’ve probably become desensitized; when you walk into a room where more than half the people are in various states of undress, there is a point at which you will no longer be surprised by much of anything. On the other hand, I wonder if I’m somehow getting in closer touch with my status as a creature of God.
Genesis tells us that when Adam and Eve disobey God’s commandment in the Garden of Eden, the first symptom of their disobedience is that they cover themselves. While the text tells us that they hide “because they knew that they were naked,” it’s pretty clear that they cover themselves because they are ashamed. They are afraid that the imperfections that they perceive somehow make them unworthy in the eyes of God. What they forgot was that after God created them, God called them “good.” God called them good in spite of their imperfections, in spite of their nakedness, and in spite of their disobedience. In the same way, we must remember that we have been created by God and that God calls each and every one of us good in spite of our unfaithfulness, in spite of our perceived imperfections, and in spite of our shame. We are called to recognize our identity as creatures of God; we are called to remember that even in our nakedness, God has called us “good.”