I think gyms are comical. For a lot of men, they're like a masculine catwalk with metallic obstacles - to make it more manly of course.
I often see guys wearing their workout edition daisy-dukes and dental floss t-shirts, parading back and forth throughout the gym for hours at a time, without lifting a single weight. Many of them look like a carnivorous hunting animal who has lost his sense of smell entirely. They distressingly pace back and forth, perilously attempting to find some purpose to their exhaustion. Heralding their physical fortitude, they wait for an opportunity to unleash it's raw, unadulterated power upon the masses.
That, or strike a pose and hit on the next attractive lady to walk into the room.
In general, I think we as a society have an interesting perception of strength. Type the word "abs", "ripped", or really any combination of words partnered with the word "extreme" into any search engine and you'll immediately realize our obsession with physical strength, or the appearance of it at least.
I heard a story yesterday about an incredible seventy year old woman from Daytona Beach named Eliud Haliday. This sweet Brazilian woman was loading groceries into her van when a carjacker jumped into the driver's seat and took off with it. The incredible part is that Eliud then jumped into the car, and put the carjacker into a one-handed choke hold until he eventually had no choice but to dive out of the car, gasping for air and dignity.
"I can't believe how hard it is to break somebody's neck," she said. "I just kept choking him until he couldn't talk. I thought he'd at least faint."
And that stories surprises us, because it goes against everything we've come to expect from seventy year old women who own champagne colored minivans. But the truth is, it happened. This woman demonstrated strength and courage, when most of us would expect the contrary.
We developed for ourselves a model or protocol of how we expect things to go, often based solely on our limited perspective and understanding, and are continuously surprised when the outcome is other than what he had calculated. It's so difficult for me to not simply "buy into" the fact that God regularly functions outside the confines of my ineffectual rationale, but daily walk and live in that realization every day of my life.
I am inspired by what Paul said to the church in Corinth:
"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Corinthians 1:27)
When Christ chose the powerless and the anonymous of society, it wasn't just because he was bored or feeling feisty. There was great intent with who he chose as his disciples, and they are likely the last people we would ever choose if given the chance to organize a revolutionary insurrection. There's something about the tired, burdened, and forgotten heart that compels the Christ of scripture, and I must admit that I find it absolutely enthralling. To be in a place of total depravity is apparently when Christ is most inclined to meet us where we're at.
Two days ago there was a massive earthquake in Qinghai, China. My little brother is currently living in China. When I first heard of the quake and the resulting death toll, I felt an immediate sense of complete and utter helplessness. As juvenile as it may sound, it didn't matter how many push-ups I had done that day, if Trav was caught in that earthquake, there wasn't a single thing that my, or even his limited strength could accomplish. I imagine there are few others times where a person's own frailty and weakness is so evident, as it is when you are caught in an earthquake. There is nothing you can do about what is happening to you. We both were at the mercy of the unchallengeable force beneath the earth.
I finally received an email response from him today, letting me know that he was okay, and in that instant I felt as though God was saying "I want you to reach that point of total dependence on me in everything that you do".
To live as if we don't already have all of the answers may be incredibly difficult for a lot us, but I for one hope to one day truly live my life with open hands, willing to go and do wherever and whatever God may lead. To not rely on the stature and strength I've established for myself goes against everything my instinct tells me, and yet I am compelled to live recklessly in the love that chose outcasts to usher in a new kingdom.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)