By ANNIE WESCHE
As we placed our exercise mats on the floor, my friend and I were excited for another workout with our favorite class instructor. Tricia’s demeanor was always warm and encouraging, her teaching style was intense — constantly pushing us past our comfort zones, and, being a Christian, her music choices were markedly different from other group classes. As we visited with the other ladies in the room, we were surprised when a substitute teacher walked into the room and got us started with a warm-up. Having taken her class once before, we knew it wasn’t going to be like the classes with Tricia. But not wanting to offend the substitute, we stayed, hoping to still get in a solid workout.
About fifteen minutes into class, I heard a jarring profanity come through the beat-driven music playing from the speakers overhead. I cringed, wanting suddenly to get out of the room and out of that atmosphere. But how could I leave when the class was just getting started? It was too early for me to look like one of those “Sorry, I gotta slip out early, but great class!” kind of people. I’ll offend her, I thought. Or she’ll think I don’t like her … or her teaching style. And to add to the awkwardness of leaving the room, we were centered in the front row. Any departure now would be noted by everyone.
My inner hesitation held just long enough for the song to change and a new exercise circuit to be introduced. Maybe it was just that one song. I really don’t want to offend anyone or draw attention to myself. I’ll stay and maybe just talk with her later about being bothered by the music. But when another song shamelessly began boasting sexual narratives, I had to do something. I couldn’t just stand there doing lunges while my mind was fed lustful lyrics. Quickly and quietly, I bent down, grabbed my water bottle, and slipped out the side door … my friend right behind me.
In the past two years I have become a big fan of having a gym membership. It has been a tremendous tool in my life for cultivating discipline, fitness motivation, strength, and health. But just as with any place I go, each time I walk through those gym doors, my faith, my convictions, and my Savior go with me. I bear His Name, and how I live will either bring honor or dishonor to that precious Name. What I allow into my ears, eyes, mind, and heart will serve to strengthen my soul or undermine my faith, and it also makes a statement to others.
Then Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world;
he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
John 8:12 (NASB)
If you find that you’ve been allowing worldly influences into your heart and mind at your gym (or any other place), know that you and I don’t have to resign ourselves to accepting the existing state and standard of things in the world around us. We’re called to guard our heart and eyes, and to be salt and light! (See Proverbs 4:23, Psalm 101:3, and Matthew 5:13-16!) So be purposeful with what you allow into your life and don’t enter into darkness just to fit in your workout — always carry the light with you!
Load up those headphones of yours with Christ-centered podcasts, great Christian biographies on audiobook, edifying music, or audio Bible. Turn your eyes away from the TVs lining the wall and instead, look down at Scripture verses on 3 x 5 cards, choose a machine facing one of the windows, or watch a movie like Amazing Grace or The War Room on your iPad. Let your workout time strengthen your soul while it strengthens your body! And if your fitness class instructor plays offensive music, graciously ask them to choose music without profanity or sexually explicit lyrics. You’ll find that more often than not, people have just become desensitized to such things in their own life and would be happy to make the change for you. And if you are met with indifference, choose Christ and find another class or another way to work out.
As you give this area of your life to the Lord in prayer, He’ll guide you with creative ways to maximize that time at the gym for both body and soul. And if you find that you are too distracted or meet with an ongoing issue in your heart, take a season away and choose to honor Christ, remembering that “bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8) and that in all things He must have the first place in our lives. (See Colossians 1:18.)