By David Bush with Joe Tewell
“I don’t know if I can do this!” Marci confessed as she retreated to a bench. We were just halfway through her second session warm-up and things were already unraveling. I didn’t want a scene in the crowded fitness center, but it was against my nature to let someone fold so quickly. I formulated some phrases that I’d found were effective over the years in prodding my clients to give more than they thought they were capable of giving. After all, she’d hardly broken a sweat, and I knew I wasn’t doing her any favors by accommodating her preconceived barriers. If I caved every time an unfit client got winded I’d be out of a job.
Which verbal switch should I use on Marci? “Go ahead and quit then…I’m sure quitting will solve your problems” had proven effective in the past. I was ready to unleash this pearl of wisdom when I noticed that Marci’s cries of physical pain had somehow morphed into something deeper. Tears were staining her cheeks as she sat staring into space.
The uncomfortable scene that was playing out in front of me was enough of a shock to remind me that I wasn’t just a personal trainer trying to keep a client on task. I was also supposed to be a spiritual mentor and encourager to those who reached out for help after experiencing a faith-focused fitness ministry I helped facilitate. “What’s going on Marci?” was all I could muster at the time.
I soon discovered the answer to my question. Marci called me and asked if I could meet to talk. I was certain this appointment was when she was going to tell me my services were no longer needed and that she was going to address her physical issues some other way. Instead, she brought a sheet of copy paper to our meeting covered with writing. On the paper she’d listed significant dysfunctional relationships, tragic offenses, hurtful memories, damaging personal violations, and harmful responses and coping mechanisms: heavy drinking, sexual promiscuity, and broken relationships. One statement on the page particularly jumped out at me – “Fat is acting like a protective layer…” In a commendable act of transparency, Marci was revealing how her regrettable personal history had ultimately metastasized to her physical body.
It was a story I knew all too well myself.
All I could offer Marci was the same strong medicine that had revolutionized my life and perspective: surrender. Not compliance to a new diet or workout routine – after all, of what help is a set of burpees to a crushed and broken spirit? Marci’s greatest need was to surrender to the only Personal Trainer who is capable of transforming broken lives, bodies, and spirits: Jesus. I found that out for myself only after years of trying things my way and wondering why I could never outrun my past. Fully entrusting her scars, her fears, her shame, and her own misconduct was the only way out of the prison that held her.
Marci is finding, as I did, that surrender is actually liberating. It’s also necessary for anyone who says they want to follow Jesus. Marci and I are reminding each other of this each week as we meet to continue transforming our bodies and our spirits.