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Spiritual Training Cycle: Surrender (wk. 2/13)

I love homecomings. Let me tell you what I mean by that. After coaching athletes for more than a decade, I’ve had a few leave. Some leave because they change jobs or move to different states, but there are others who leave without realizing it. Leaving a lifestyle of fitness is often a slow and progressive process. New stresses in life cause athletes to adjust their gym schedule. Sometimes old temptations or habits come calling, beckoning just beyond the bay doors. Others get hit by injury, and some just set too high an expectation and they burn out along the way. I’ve seen athletes like this come and go. But my favorite moments are when they return, the homecoming moments. Many times, they walk in quietly, almost hoping I won’t notice them. With slumped shoulders and head hung low, it’s as if they’re waiting for me to pounce on them. To call them out. To question their commitment to themselves and to their general wellbeing. Instead, they hear two words from me loudly ring out across the gym – welcome back!

It’s hard to come back. If you’ve never had to face a comeback then you haven’t been in fitness long enough. I’m not trying to put something bad on you, I’m just telling you that the tension of life will try to pull you away. And it’s a slow pull. When you move from three days a week to two days a week you don’t feel it. When you quit pushing yourself like you used to you don’t notice it. When a season of sports for your child means limited workouts for you, the effects of that move are subtle. The next thing you know, your clothes start to fit a little tighter. You’re opening the belt up another notch or taking to leggings and sweatshirts all the time. And this little voice in your head starts to whisper things like, “You’re too far gone.” Your brain starts running a continuous loop of how difficult and challenging it will be to get it back. As life slowly pulls you away from fitness, you dread even the thought of walking back into the place where it all started because you’re embarrassed of who you’ve become. If that’s you, I want you to know it’s time to come home!

It’s also hard to stick with it. I give a shout out to all of you who pay it in week after week. Sometimes I just want to pull a “before” photo out to remind some of my athletes how far they’ve come. You are the veterans of the gym, but it’s easy for the gym to feel like something you have to do rather than something you get to do. And one of the great things you get to do is welcome people back. But let’s face it, you’re battling your own emotions when someone whose been gone a while comes back. Some of you wonder why we coaches pay so much attention to those people. The voice in your head says, “You know I’ve been here the whole time and this person just walks in after being gone six months and now they’re all that?” Your brain starts running a continuous loop of how you will smash them in the WOD to assert the fact that you are physically superior. But put yourself in their shoes and remember this – God’s grace was first given to you, so shouldn’t it be the first thing you give to everyone else?

Join the welcoming committee. Be part of the community in your gym that leads with grace. Realize that shame and guilt are easily defeated with a big dose of grace. I pray that by the grace of God we would see homecomings in gyms all around the world. And as people finally get up the courage to turn off the negativity and turn on the morning alarm again, they would hear the sound of grace ring out – welcome back!

Questions for Reflection:

Who do you more identify with in today’s reading – the younger son or the older son?

God’s grace ultimately restored the younger son. How has God’s grace restored your life?

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