Shortly after I arrived here, one of the members of my congregation decided to go back to school. It was a dream for her. She wanted to be a personal trainer. She wanted to help other people be healthier.
When she finished, she asked if a few of the members of my congregation would be her first students. She would train us, and also learn from us so that she could improve her teaching skills.
So, nearly every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I stay at church for an extra forty-five minutes to do the "Work-out of the Day." We use weights sometimes, we do step up exercises, we even tried a hula hoop a couple of times (something at which I am an abysmal failure.) We have tried walking with these stretchy binders on our legs (our trainer calls it the 'monster walk'). We always end with a one-half mile walk.
These are not hard exercises. But some of them have been hard for me.
I have never been the athletic type. I just didn't feel like I was good at athletics. (I'm more the bookstore and library type). And in our culture, it's important to be good. The one exception was swimming, which I loved, even though I was not an exceptional swimmer. I enjoyed being in the water, and I didn't feel like I was competing with anyone.
So here I am, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, with my water bottle and my yoga pants, doing standing jumping jacks and bicycle crunches, step ups and all kinds of unfamiliar exercises. Our instructor will tell us what a particular exercise will help with sometimes. And it took awhile before I started to recognize a familiar phrase: This exercise will strengthen your core.
I have realized that this is what I need: a stronger core.
It's not all about wanting to look thinner and trimmer. I won't lie; that's part of it. But I realize that with a stronger core, our bodies just work better. I'm remembering what happened to my mother-in-law a few years ago. Little by little, she became unable to get herself out of a chair. What we realized was that she was trying to do it entirely with the strength in her arms. In order to get up, she actually needed a number of different muscle systems, working together: arms, legs -- and of course, the muscles in our "core."
With a stronger core, our bodies just work better.
What's your core? Someone asked me this last weekend.
Maybe there's another way of asking it. What is it that holds everything together for you, makes everything work better? What's at the center of your life, and is it strong? For me, I suppose it is poetry and prayer and time for reflection. What's your core? How can you strengthen it?
I think this is important for individuals, but also for congregations. What's at the center of your life, as a congregation, and is it strong? How can it be stronger?
At the heart, to me, strengthening the core is about trusting God. The only way we can strengthen it is to practice. One exercise at a time. The exercises might not be the same for all of us, but the core we strengthen is the same.
Our instructor wants us to do a 5K walk or run, sometime this fall. We aren't ready yet. But if we take small steps, if we strengthen our core, perhaps we can do it.