The last several days have been pretty quiet around here. With a sleeping baby and no other adult interactions my mind has been racing. Mainly about the topic of community.
Hang in there with me while I try to sort through my thoughts. And to see how “fitness club and church” relate.
It was only 8 weeks ago that I looked like this (this picture was taken as we were on our way to the hospital):
It was 8 weeks and 8 hours later that I birthed him (our little man a few moments after arriving):
As pregnancy does to every woman, it makes you gain weight and changes your body in ways you never knew possible. The first couple of weeks home with August, I didn’t feel up to doing much, let alone burning off some of that baby weight. Once I started to feel better and got the “okay” from the doctor, I was ready to hit the gym. Because of the lack of childcare from Planet Fitness, we decided to join MVP Fitness Club here in Holland. Between a nice discount my employer offers, unlimited classes, nice facilities and childcare, we were sold.
My first time at MVP, I was clearly an outsider. I didn’t know how the treadmills worked, I put my lock on the lockers wrong, found myself accidentally working out in the middle of an ab group class, felt less fit than 97% of the people there and wasn’t making weekend plans with the women next to me in the free weight section. I was intimidated and felt like everyone knew everyone and everyone knew that I knew no one. Make sense?
It got me to thinking, this is how non-Christians must feel when they come to church for the first time. They probably don’t know where to sit, how to take communion, why we’re passing an offering plate, who to talk to, and feel like everyone knows everyone but them. And the crazy thing is, I will probably feel part of the gym quicker than an “outsider” will feel part of the church. I’ve been a Christian my entire life and have attended church since I was in the womb and I still tend to feel like an outsider in new churches. We’ve been attending our church here in Holland (which we really enjoy and love) since July, and we still feel like outsiders at times.
Everyone is seeking to belong to something bigger than themselves–a rich, fulfilling community. Whether that is found at a fitness club, local bar, or a church–we all long to be known. So why is it that I may be more comfortable at a gym sooner than I will be at church, when the church is supposed to be one of the most loving and accepting places for people go to? I guess I’m not looking for an answer nor am I giving one.
As I’ve spent a lot of time with just August these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about community, where that is supposed to come from, what it should look like and how the body of Christ should be supporting one another. I guess I am bothered that the church doesn’t always do the best job of providing the type of community I believe it should. I’m bothered that I contribute to this. I’m bothered that so many people throughout this world turn to gyms and bars for community before the church. Maybe it bothers me to a different degree because we don’t live close to family and have struggled to find rich community for the past 4 years, or that there truly is a lack of community in today’s American church.
Whatever it might be that has me on my soapbox right now, change can only start with me. My prayer is that I will allow my newly found insecurities at the gym to soften my heart to those around me. May I be the one who helps the lonely first time mom feel welcome or the discouraged elderly man find joy in his day. This Sunday and each one afterwards, I hope and pray that my eyes and heart are open to those around me who are feeling the way I felt at the gym this week.