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    A View from the Pew

    Me, You, Us




    I began resistance training about a year ago. A form of strength building, resistance exercises move against force to develop muscles and bones. To avoid a third spine surgery that will include fusion that will only serve as a short term 'fix,' I turned to resistance training at the suggestion of a seasoned trainer named Wayne who I met when I did physical therapy in the swimming pool at my local YMCA.


    For spine patients, water is the only place where pain does not exist. Bodies are buoyant in water; the minute you get into the pool and hang on a noodle, pain melts away. You never want to leave the pool because you know when you leave the water, the pain returns. But I knew the jig was up when I talked to Wayne.


    "Pool therapy will work for only so long," Wayne told me. "But people don't live in water; we live on land. You need to build your core muscles to improve your everyday function. I can help you with that." I came up from the water and hired Wayne that day as a personal functional trainer with the strong approval of my physiatrist, my neurosurgeon and my primary care physician, who all applauded my decision. "Would that all my patients would do likewise," one commented.


    One year later, under Wayne's diligent training and excellent direction, I can bench press, leg press, plank, climb stadium stairs, lift weights, balance and squat on a half-moon ball with weights, do chin ups, row and use most of the resistance machines at the YMCA, my morning hang out. I exercise with law enforcement officers, firemen, mothers with children, retired judges, lawyers and doctors and construction workers, administrators of businesses and the mentally and physically challenged. In other words, here comes everybody. Everyone knows Wayne and he knows them all by name. His passion for his work is only exceeded by his desire to see everyone succeed in physical fitness. I think of him as Super Wayne: the man of steel with a heart of gold.


    Wayne's eyes constantly survey the clients as they workout. If Wayne sees that someone's activity will compromise their body or hurt them in some way, he will immediately come to their rescue with unsolicited advice on how tweak their workout routine. Sometimes they heed his sound advice. Sometimes they ignore his advice and continue destructive behavior that will inevitably hurt their overall success. Wayne never persists in extending advice. He offers it and then moves on to work with people who seek him out as a trainer and as a mentor in physical fitness. Smart people listen to what he tells them. Others refuse to listen. When that happens, Wayne wipes the dust from his feet and moves on to the next person who hears him and acts on his expertise.


    Listening plays a major role as Wayne and work together in my resistance trainings. We try many routines and ways of achieving success. Wayne motivates me to push through workout pain, through workout nausea, through the 'burn' of lactic acid that erupts when you push your muscles really hard. When we reach a roadblock because my spine will not twist in a particular direction, Wayne finds a different way to come at the muscle to avoid injury while continuing to build on our success. Together, we listen to my body and what it can and cannot do. Together, we find a way to make the workout work. Wayne constantly researches ways and means for me to achieve my goal: everyday function. I would be in a wheelchair without Wayne. Because I listen to him and he listens to me, we continue to build my core through persistent effort and hard work. The labor pays off but not without the sacrifice of time, sweat and a lot of really hard work. They don’t call it a workout for nothing.


    Do I always feel like working out? Absolutely not. Do I skip workouts? Absolutely not. My overall wellness is greatly affected if I miss a workout. A day without a workout is day without wellness. And life's too short for me not to feel well.



    I listen to you. I listen when you experience the growing pains as you develop a new ministry. I listen to your when you share the divisions that exist within your staffs. I listen when you feel victimized and abused and feel stuck and powerless to create change within your ministry. I listen when you ask questions, need direction or motivation to try a new approach to your work. I listen as you work with disgruntled employees and nothing ever sees to make them happy. And I listen when you tell me that you're ready to throw in the towel because things just become too difficult, too painful, and too stressful for you to continue. Toxicity can really gnaw away at wellness, physically, mentally and spiritually. And there are too many of you who are swamping around in the muck and experiencing all of this. I know. I listen to you.



    It seems to me that right now, in this time and place, this church of ours is like my broken spine. A fusion is only a quick fix; fusion only means the beginning of more fusions. We need to go deeper than a quick fix. Our 'core' of passion and vitality in ministry needs to be rebuilt, revitalized and restored to be a healthy spine for the people of God. Moral is at an all-time low. We need one another as a community that listens, supports and bolsters when the weight of wounded ministry gets so heavy that we just can't take another step before we throw up. We need to listen to one another as we do the spiritual workout of restorative healing. We need patient and practiced trainers to teach and mentor us as we rebuild what is broken. Skill, and desire, commitment, strategic planning and quality assurance may need a 'lactic acid' burn to initiate authentic change to become the presence of Christ in the world. At the core of it lays the hard fact of the matter: we need a new way of doing 'church.'


    Who will work out with me? I’m listening….