The setting is college. The character is a girl (eh hem yours truly) who is arrested by physical fitness. Owned by it. Preoccupied by it. Lives for it. Every morning at 6:00 am, she is at the on-campus gym doing bike sprints, likely planning out the meals of the day and calculating calories, while blankly staring at a rerun of Saved By The Bell.
And I can see now: physical fitness is a wonderful gift from God - being able to use, strengthen and enjoy the body He has given us. But in our flesh, and with the enemy whispering lies of unworthiness, these gifts can be warped into chains that trap us and keep us from seeing beyond this one, dominating element in our lives. I had chained myself to this proverbial "bike".
So, back to the story: at least several months into this routine, early-morning gym visit, a gentleman, who I hadn't ever seen before, approached me after a workout. He is holding a picture in one of his hands (this is before smartphones). This picture is of a very overweight individual. He says (and I am paraphrasing because this was quite a long time ago): "This is me last year...when I couldn't seem to find a way to get the weight off. I was miserable. I didn't know how I would ever be happy and healthy. One day that I decided to try to go to the gym, you were here right on the bike in front of mine...working so hard. And you were here the next day and the next day. Every day I didn't want to go, I remembered you would be here working hard. And every day I went, I would choose the bike behind yours so I could be pushed by you. You were my accountability partner. I just want to say thank you." He had lost somewhere around 50 lbs over the course of several months...and he was right behind me...inspired by me...accomplishing a goal that would transform his life.
And I'm so thankful he pulled me aside. Otherwise, I would have never known. It would have just remained to be a non-memorable routine that stemmed from lies about who I needed to be - a period of my life that I am thankful is over...I am, by the grace of God, no longer riding that "bike".
And when I think of this story, it reminds me to persevere. Especially now that I see that story framed by a loving God. The memory of this story is being used to remind me that we all are here for a purpose. That I have been intentionally made with purpose. Each of us was created with both a unique and unified purpose. We have skills, qualities, quirks that are uniquely and purposefully us...that the Lord, our God, decided we should have. And would perfectly equip us for the people, circumstances and places we would encounter throughout our time here. There is purpose in each of us being here, and every moment is purposeful. Without you, something God has planned that is GOOD wouldn't happen. He is writing an incredible redemption story... and He is gracious enough to make each one of us part of it.
While God is not actively doing anything bad (He is incapable of bad. He is the very definition of good - I truly believe that), He is responsible for the good that something "bad" ends up bringing. Even when we can't see exactly how He is accomplishing that. And even when He doesn't always seem to move in the ways that we think might be "good" or even when we cannot understand why it seems like darkness and tragedy are overwhelmingly prevalent, we can trust that these things will be used with purpose.
The Lord is using each of us - our struggles and victories - in ways that we may not even be aware of.
I have no idea what path this gentleman ended up on. I know this was a spiritually dark period of my life and I wasn't shining the light of Christ, but I do know the Lord used me, in my weakness, to propel someone into a more healthy relationship with their body - even when mine was unhealthy.
And, in His time, through His perfect ways, I finally was able to get off that "bike". I was shown who I was, where my worth lies and that I needed rest from this tireless ride - feeling restless without living my true, undeniable purpose: To point others to Jesus.
And it's true for each of us: whatever your "bike" might be, we are given permission to walk away from it. To finally rest, a rest only He can provide. And, even when we aren't quite ready to come to the end of ourselves, it doesn't mean He isn't working.
I've learned to never underestimate His ability to work things for good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
How can I pray for you? I'd love to hear from you if there is anything you need encouragement for or need prayer on. Email me!