Life Lessons From the Gym

Saturday was the first official day of my twenty-one day sabbatical. I woke up bright and early to my husband pulling me by the feet out of bed. What in the world?

“It’s a new beginning,” he said. “Let’s go to the gym,” he said. As the morning fog began to lift from my brain, I vaguely remembered agreeing to this lunacy some time ago.

“But I don’t have anything to wear to the gym.” I whined.

young woman woman in bed awakening tired holding alarm clock on white background

(Doesn’t that sound like a completely legitimate excuse to you?)

“Oh, I bet you can find something. It’s just the gym”

Standing now in front of the bathroom mirror, “But look at me. Do you really want to be seen in public with this?”

“Yes. Get dressed. Time to go.”

Well, I managed to find my only pair of gym shorts and an oversized t-shirt to wear to the gym at our local YMCA. I was definitely going to turn heads, and not particularly in a good way, either.

On arrival, I made a beeline to my workout machine of choice. The elliptical machine. It’s really a torture contraption, but I figure that if I’m going to do this thing, I want the most bang for my buck.

I had brought along my iPhone and my ear buds. No conversating for me at the gym. (Not that anyone would want to talk to me in my ridiculous “I never really exercise” outfit and obvious bed head.)

I set up my machine the best I could, and set my phone to play a John Ortberg podcast about putting margin in my life, and my first workout in forever was off and running. And by running, I mean not running, exactly. It was more of a canter. I need to ease into this exercise thing.

As I listened to how I need to allow more time in my schedule and learn to say no to things (like going to they gym, perhaps) I noticed a game of basketball in progress on the court next to the exercise room. I marveled at how those guys could be interested in playing a game of basketball at that early hour.

The guys playing were all fairly young adult black men who appeared to be no strangers to that court. They were getting their game on. There were more guys who wanted to play than spots available on the court, so there appeared to be an organization to the whole process of getting everyone their turn on the hardwood.


As I exercised on my machine and listened to my podcast, I would intermittently watch the activity on the court. I couldn’t help noticing the skinny white kid who had appeared at one end of the court holding a basketball. After a minute, I could tell he very much wanted to play with the big dogs.

I laughed to myself and thought, “Fat chance, little man.” I knew there was no way he was going to get a spot on that court that morning. Occasionally, the game would take a time out and there would be a few moments of free space on the court. That little white dude would make his way tentatively on the court and begin to shoot baskets. He really wasn’t half bad, but he still didn’t get noticed by anyone but me.

After an hour on the machine, I was past done and really proud that I hadn’t injured myself or required the assistance of a paramedic. The skinny kid was still waiting on his turn to play when we left the gym.

I realized a truth there in the gym. We all want to be noticed. We want to be chosen. I felt bad for that little scrawny kid. What basketball skills he had were not enough to get him on a team. I couldn’t help being thankful that I didn’t have to be qualified to be chosen to play on God’s team. Now I know full well that was corny, but the metaphor works, so stick with me.

We are not in and of ourselves qualified to be on God’s team. Our pitiful little skills we may have do not make us a more desirable member. God doesn’t look at us and get all impressed by our mad skills and say, “Her! I want her!” No, the Bible says that while we were still losers he chose us. (That’s my interpretation. If you want to see the actual wording, check out Romans 5:8) In fact, we are just as pitiful in our own efforts as that skinny kid at the gym and still he says, “Her! I want her!”

We are qualified only because of Jesus and what he has done on our behalf. We get on the team because of Jesus alone, not because of anything impressive we have to offer.

I left the gym that first day with spaghetti for legs and gratefulness for my Savior… because, in truth, I am that kid. Without Jesus, I have nothing to offer. I have no reason to boast unless I boast in Him.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8

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