I despise going to the gym. I wander from machine to machine, surreptitiously reading the instructions and avoiding eye-contact with anyone close to me. I feel awkward, self-conscious, and like everyone knows I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. In short, no matter how often I go or how many years of learning I have under my belt, the gym will forever feel like a foreign planet with too little oxygen in its atmosphere – because just the thought of going back takes the breath right out of me. Perhaps that is the reason I don’t like working out – or maybe I just don’t like to get sweaty. It’s so much more fun to relax comfortably in the recliner with my favorite book. I build brain power and don’t even break a sweat.
In any case, as I sighed myself into a chair at the dinner table tonight and arched my aching back to relieve tension from a high-paced work day, my husband began explaining a new workout app he found through a buddy. “Come on, let’s workout tonight. The boys can do it, too,” he encouraged me as he looked me in the eyes. He truly wanted us to share this experience, this short exercise session we could complete in our living room. Immediately, I became more tense. My shoulders tightened and my blood pressure creeped steadily higher. I didn’t want to do it. I was tired. I was busy. I had too much to do, like dishes and laundry and lesson-planning and grading and vacuuming and more laundry…but then I thought about one little phrase I’ve been praying recently: “Lord, help me remember to soak it all in – every little moment with my husband and my boys. Help me to see You in the quiet and in the storm.”
I’ve been reading so many social media posts about New Year’s resolutions where friends and family are seeking more time with God, a healthier lifestyle, or a stronger relationship with their spouse. I’ve never been one for resolutions, but I’m all for working on my relationships. Since all of my most treasured loves are rooted in the Lord, I’ve realized that only by improving my relationship with Him will I be empowered to improve my relationships with others. What is it, then, that I need to do? I cannot add more hours to the day – or more minutes to those hours. No matter how hard I try, the days are still more full than I’d like. How can I find more free minutes to spend with God? I’ve imagined creating a special prayer and study corner near the windows of our bedroom, where the morning sunlight wiggles through the shutters and creates an inviting warmth perfect for this writer’s heart. Someday, maybe I will. For now, I’ve no means to that end. So what, then? Our closet is not much bigger than a telephone booth, so I can’t hide away in there. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) Ah, but daughter, He whispers, it is not about the place. You can meet me anywhere, at any time. Just remember to breathe.
So, when my husband tells me he wants to work out as a family after a light dinner, I concentrate on the in-and-out movement of my breath – slowing it so that I can relax and hear my Father’s gentle whisper. I pray through a most treasured verse, Psalm 139:23-24. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” For it is anxiety that removes my anticipation. Worry wags its little finger at me and sends thoughts swirling through my head. It reminds me of the other people in my life – students, parents, co-workers – who rely on me. It tugs at my conscience, playing on my people-pleaser nature. And it pulls me from a state of anticipation of God-moments into a whirlpool of worry.
In Philippians 4:8, brothers and sisters in Christ are encouraged to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” As a believer, I should anticipate God showing up in these precious moments with my family. He wants me to breathe deeply and soak in these fleeting moments of quiet evenings with two rambunctious little boys. It is right that I put aside worry and anxiety to be with them. In fact, I imagine God’s delighted face as he observes our little family work-out session. I’m sure my clumsy attempts at burpees and my son’s adaptations of karate kicks elicit a loving laugh from my heavenly Father. In simple family moments like these, I see the Father in my boys’ giggles and my husband’s strength. In choosing to lay down the anxiety of the day and the worries of another week, I take hold of my Father’s right hand and deepen my relationship with Him.
I’m still trying to figure out how I can find God in the gym. Perhaps He will grant me that wisdom someday. For now, I will remember to breathe when the cares of the world weigh on me. I will soak in the moments I have with my loved ones, knowing that I find my Father in these moments, too.