My arms and chest hurt today.
Yesterday, after a rather long hiatus, I returned to the gym. (It’s less than a mile from my house, it cost $10 to join, I’m officially out of excuses.) I planned a workout, I found the right machines and weights, and I lifted up heavy things and put them down.
I’m just this schlub in an ironic t-shirt and workout pants, and all around me are guys who clearly know what they’re doing; there was one gentleman who had to be at least sixty who might have been part of the East German Olympic lifting team back in the day. And I’ll admit, I was intimidated and felt awkward around them, and I heavily considered leaving numerous times.
Then one guy said, as I laid back on a bench, “You need a spot?” We ended up talking—he asked if I was one of “those New Year’s guys,” and I said no, I just moved and I needed a gym. We talked some more as I lifted, I spotted him. I became one of them, slightly. But I didn’t want to leave immediately after. In fact, being welcomed into the den of these guys when I felt like I didn’t belong, and seeing them do what they do with passion, reaffirmed what I want to believe at the gym: I can do this.
They say the trick with weight loss and working out is to believe it’s working. Don’t weigh yourself every day, don’t flex in the mirror every chance you get; but understand you’re in a process where the discipline you hold and the action you take works. If the seeds are planted and nurtured, they will sprout and bear fruit.
This week, as we continue to look at the practices of fruitful congregations (thanks again, Robert Schnase!), next up is intentional faith development. Faith requires cultivation in community as we challenge and consume the Word of God and let it work in us. That might be done on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights; it might be done in conversation or counseling; it might be done in a large group or with a few folks. Whatever the case is, taking time together to believe—even if belief seems to be the most ridiculous option—is vital. We can do this. The process works. God is still speaking.
You can probably guess what the sermon’s about this week. Our text is one of the best parables, I’d argue, as would the gospel writers. Check out Luke 8:4-15 before Sunday, if you’re so inclined. I look forward to seeing you then.