CAMP GLADIATOR AND THE CHURCH

10 Apr

I arrived at my first Camp Gladiator early one morning in mid-July of 2014. I did not want to go. But I had a friend who had been inviting me. She had been very consistent in inviting me. I was overweight. Out of shape. Not healthy.  She was concerned. I finally gave in to her persistence. I thought that if I went once, it would appease her and she would leave me alone.

When I showed up, there was a group of people already there. Not all of them were super-toned athletes. Oh, there were some. of that nature in attendance. But they were not there to show out. They were there to encourage. Nobody looked at me any different.  I did not feel scorn. In fact, I felt nothing but encouragement. 

So I stayed.  The support I felt in that group of people was incredible.  I’m still not the best. But nobody there is in competition with me. This is not the school playground. Nobody wants to laugh at you. Their desire is to make you feel accepted and to help point you to a better life.

Take David for example.  Time and again, I have tried to master the “burpee.” This is a very cruel exercise where one drops to the floor and then jumps back up just as quickly. I hate them. And I cannot do them. On one particular day, I was having a tougher time than usual. David came alongside me and did them with me .

Jonathan is like that, too. He makes it a point to seek me out each time I am there.  Many times he reminds me that it’s not where I am at but where I am going. I can’t count the number of times he has sprinted back from his place at the beginning to join me at the back of the line so I will have some encouragement.

McKenzie is one of those that has already arrived. Her and our trainer, Veronica, appear to be in perfect athletic condition. They don’t seem to get winded. There is not an exercise they can”t master. But they don’t see themselves as above anyone else.  They cheer, they shout, they encourage. They are leaders in every sense of the word.

Then there is Monika. Monika was once in the same boat I find myself navigating today… wanting desperately to lose weight and wondering if it was ever going to happen. Over the course of a year, she has lost 100 pounds. She has a word of encouragement everytime she comes in the door. It means a lot coming from her.  I know that she knows my journey.

For those reasons, and so many others, I will keep coming back.   I’m still not where I want to be. But I’m getting there. Recently I did my first burpee.  It was not near what everybody else was doing but it was a sign that I was improving physically. I was excited and all my CG buddies seemed to share my excitement.  I started seeing that if I keep pressing on, I’m going to reach my goal.

This is the place to be!

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He didn’t want to go to church. He only went because his neighbor wouldn’t leave him alone. He had been concerned about him for some time. He seemed depressed, lonely, searching. His neighbor was very consistent in inviting him and so he finally decided he would go. He figured if he went once to appease him, then his neighbor would leave him alone.

He thought he would find a bunch of super spiritual giants. You know the type. The ones that can quote King James and seem to always have it together.  However, that was not what he found. Sure, there were some of them. But at the same time, there were others who he was surprised to find shared some of the same struggles with which he was wrestling. Best of all, nobody looked at him like he didn’t belong. In fact, they encouraged and supported him. They told him they hoped he would come again.

So he kept coming back.  The support and encouragement he received on his spiritual journey was incredible. He’s still not the best. But nobody is there to “out-spiritualize” him.

Sam, the deacon, greets him with a smiling face every Sunday morning and asks him about his family. He doesn’t seem like a leader in the church (at least not the stereotype). He seems like a regular person. And he seems genuinely interested in every person with whom he comes in contact.

Thomas, the Pastor, never tries to put himself on a higher level than the rest of the congregation. He seems to be the most human of all of them. But you can tell that his love for Jesus is genuine.

And then there is Reyna. Reyna is a middle aged widow. She knew he was trying to quit smoking. So everyday, she would text him a Bible verse. She would buy him gum and lollipops to help curb his craving for nicotine. He felt she really cared about him on this journey. And he was excited to have a friend who was not dragging him down but was pulling him up.

So, it’s been a few months and he keeps coming back. He’s not where he wants to be but he can’t imagine being anywhere else. Recently, he joined his first men’s accountability group. He was excited to be there and all the men seemed to be excited about his presence there as well. He started seeing that if he kept pressing on, he would meet his goal.

This was the place to be.

              

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