I work part time at the downtown Grand Rapids YMCA. I sit at the front desk all day when I work, scanning members' cards so that they can access the facility and get their workout on. Pretty hard stuff, I know.
I applied to work at the YMCA when I decided to leave my job at the salon to start a journey into the unknown. I knew I was passionate about food, fitness, and everything health and wanted to surround myself with like minded people. The YMCA seemed like the perfect place to get to know people all over the city who shared the desire to feel energized and be their best versions of themselves, a great place to make connections and maybe even get my foot in the door for future opportunities. Plus you get a free membership. That's worth it on its own.
The first day of work at any new job is always a little weird. You're the new person, and everyone wants to know everything about you, while you are trying to learn a million things all at once that should be simple but don't even sound like english, because you're too busy trying to remember if you checked the mirror after lunch to make sure you don't have broccoli stuck in your teeth, but it's the first day of a new job and a new opportunity, and it's exciting, yeah...it's so exciting. Yuck. Am I right?
On my drive to the YMCA on that first day of work, I had a little chat with my friend. I'm starting to think that out loud car prayers are where Him and I do our best work. I said: God, let me be a light, and let me be an example at the YMCA. Shine through me so people can see that something is different about me and that they realize that it is You. Let my love for You flow from my heart in acts of kindness and unexplainable joy.
I feel peace when I walk into the doors of the YMCA. The sense of community combined with the endorphins flowing makes me feel at home. I've been at the YMCA for about two months now, and it keeps getting better. I love recognizing faces and trying to remember members' names before I even look at their card. It creeps some of them out when they walk up to the desk, and I say, "Hi Ryan," or, "Hey Margaret!", but they always smile, and I think think they like it. I would like it.
I would like to think that I am being a simple reminder of God's goodness when people see me propped up at the desk in my white polo and khaki pants. I would like to think that I have this overwhelming amount of motivation that just makes me so excited to go into work and spread God's love. And most of the time, I do. But there are those days - the days when I just don't want to be there. There are days when I'm just not feeling it. These are the days when I have a million other things that need to be done and sitting still for hours on end burns a little hole of craziness inside my brain. I watch unproductive minutes of precious, precious time slip away. It makes me want to go upstairs to the gym and run around the track twenty seven times so that I can join in on the endorphin party instead of just watching all of the other happy, sweaty people leave the gym to go do whatever they want with their nights while I still sit. And sit.
And then somebody smiles at me. Somebody remembers my name. These are the people that keep me going, keep me smiling. I prayed to be a light at the YMCA. I never even thought about the people who would be my light, my example.
There is a presence about these people. I started to realize that the ones whose names were easy for me to remember were the same ones who lifted my spirits when I wasn't on their level. They were the ones with the sparkly eyes and the warm faces, the ones that you felt like you already knew. I would like to think that every one of God's children has a special glow to them that only we can see and that when that glow looks a little dull, we instinctively jump in to polish their shine. What a lovely thought.
The more days I work, the more people I know. There are members that I only see at the front desk on the weekends, yet I consider them my friends. We talk about our good days and our bad ones, new discoveries, jokes, engagements, the latest books and movies, and everything in between. It's nice. I truly feel like God is working through me and in turn, touching me with the joy he pours into all of his people. I help you, you help me. I think that's the point.
There are members that are at the gym every day, sometimes twice a day. Most of these members are men with muscles popping out of places I didn't even know was possible, and most of these men don't care about much other than the gym. They scan their card, barely look up at me, get their lifts in, and leave, swinging their gallon jug of water behind them. It's not that they're rude; it's not that I don't like them. It's just that they are there to do one thing only - get huge.
And then there's Paul. He remembers your name and looks at you when you say hello. He will always ask how it's goin', and he will always tell you to have a good night. There's something in his eyes that makes you know that he is there for a greater purpose. You know that saying, "Work hard, stay humble"? I think that we should make posters with that quote and have Paul's picture on it.
Up until last week, the most I knew about Paul was that I liked him for his kind heart, but I didn't exactly know why - I didn't know his story. After his workout one night, Paul came up to the desk and asked me if I was in school. I explained that I formerly worked at a salon but had quit to pursue a career in something I was passionate about - health. I told him that I didn't exactly know what my future was going to look like yet but that I knew I was on the right track. He in turn told me that he trains for physique shows and created his own pre workout drink called, Muscle Hustle. Uh, what? Oh, and he also works as a trainer for others and has set up an online program so that he can interact with other people trying to aspire to great fitness levels. And he sells Muscle Hustle t-shirts. I am so glad that God gave us all different talents and that we are uniquely designed to do exactly what God programmed us to do. I think it's such a good reminder when you see someone doing something so specific with their gifts they were blessed with. It reminds me that I have a purpose too, and that I am made to make gluten free cupcakes with colorful sprinkles and coconut flakes and that I can leave the performance drink formulations to Paul. ;)
We decided that we had more to talk about than what we could possibly discuss in a five minute, back and forth glance into each other's lives so we agreed to meet for coffee.
I've been going to coffee a lot lately. Not just because I love frappuccinos and iced herbal teas, but because there has been a sense of urgency to it. There have been specific people popping into my life that were complete strangers yesterday and through necessary conversation over caffeine and lounge booths, they have become the dearest of friends today. I've been meeting people for Starbucks, Bigby, Mocha 'n Music, Mad Cap, anywhere and everywhere. All of these coffee dates have been first time real conversations, first time get to know each other via question and answer.
The car rides to these little appointments have felt oddly similar to to that car ride to my first day of work at the YMCA. I always find myself praying, God, I'm not really sure what I'm doing right now...I'm a little nervous if I'm being honest. Please give me security in you and let me speak with truth and audacity. Let our conversations turn to you and reveal the reason of why you brought this person into my life and why I'm suddenly in theirs.
We met at nine this morning for coffee at Starbucks. I ordered a Very Berry Hibiscus Fruit Chiller and Paul said he didn't like coffee. So we sat by the window in the sun, me sipping on sugar and him sitting there looking at me. When we first sat down, I wanted to say out loud, Why are we here again? And by the look on Paul's face, he was thinking the same thing. So we started with small talk, you know...How are you? What have you done today? Wow, it's beautiful outside... and then it got deeper.
Paul told me that he was bummin...hard. He told me how he always tells other people to not get emotionally tied to disappointment and that failures are learning lessons, but that he was struggling to take his own advice. Paul had been training for a physique competition for the last several weeks and had managed to get into the best shape of his life. I'm telling you, guys, this guy is shredded. I don't know if I've ever used that phrase before...shredded, but if anyone is shredded, it's Paul. He told me that he thought he had it, that he honestly thought he would win the whole thing, but was at least certain he'd place in the top seven.
The results came in yesterday and so did disappointment. No placing. No Victory. He said he felt crushed and confused and angry and surprised all at the same time. I cannot even fathom. I have seen how hard Paul works out at the gym, and I know it doesn't stop at the gym. In order to be in the elite performing physical shape that Paul is in, it requires extreme dedication to diet and extreme mental discipline along with so many sacrifices. I think we all can relate in some way or another - when we work day in and out for that one thing that is keeping us going, dedicating every ounce of radical faith in that one thing, and you can see it, you can see the end and you know what you're working for, but it just doesn't come. It just doesn't work out the way you saw it in your head, and you're left there questioning everything you ever believed in and that word why is stuck on repeat in your mind, heart, and soul.
When Paul told me told me everything I really didn't know how to respond. I told him that I couldn't imagine. There were a few moments of silence. Then I remembered the sermon I had listened to the night before. It was one of my favorites and I figured it might help him, since it had helped me a couple of times before. I said, Have you ever heard of elevation church? It's a church in North Carolina and they post their sermons online to watch. I love them. Yesterday I was listening to one and you should really watch it; I think it would help. It was called "Digging Ditches". Then I stopped. Not because I was finished speaking but because of Paul's face.
He said, You have got to be kidding me, digging ditches? Oh my gosh...I can't believe you just said that.
And I was like...huh?
And he was like...You don't understand. When I decided that I was going to get into fitness and pursue a life fueled by my passion, I listened to that sermon on digging ditches every single day for over a year. I cannot believe this. That is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you. That's exactly what I need to do. Dig ditches.
Here's the summary on "Digging Ditches":
Three kings and their people were in the desert, dying of thirst. Nothing they tried in their power was working and rain was not coming. They called on Elisha who they knew had a special connection with God. The Kings expected Elisha to tell them that God was going to reach his mighty hand down and pour out water for all of them to drink and that life would be good and well. But he didn't. He instead told the people who had abandoned him to make this valley full of ditches, and that then he would bring the rain even though they could not see a cloud in the sky. So the people started digging. They needed to demonstrate complete faith in utter dependence on the only one who could make it rain. They were digging ditches to prepare for the rain.
Some of Pastor Steven Furdick's Words:
Faith is not a lottery ticket, it's a work order.
Dig a ditch.
When the music of motivation is over, you gotta get a bandana, grab a shovel.
Dig a ditch.
Faith without works is dead.
The world prepares for what they hope they will accomplish.
God's people know they cannot accomplish their prayer on their own, so we need to set ourselves up to be in the perfect position of trusting faith to receive God's rain of blessing.
The people that are clapping when the rain comes aren't the ones who impress me.
I like the people who are digging.
Dig a ditch.
I'm not saying that Paul hasn't been digging. He's been digging harder than most of us. But the digging isn't over. He lifted his head, expecting clouds to be in the sky when it just wasn't time for the rain yet. The rain will come, and it will be the sweetest, most glorious rain there could be. But until that day...just. keep. digging.
I was completely dumbfounded. You did it again God. There are no such thing as coincidences, I am certain of this. Paul needed to hear this, I needed to hear this. I hope you did too. God is greater than anything we can fathom, and he is working with us if we let him. We need to show him our faithfulness before he shows us his. He has a perfect plan and the most perfect timing.
Dig a ditch.
Take 45 minutes and listen to THIS SERMON ON DIGGING DITCHES (CLICK ME) You will love that you did.
CLICK HERE! to follow Paul on Instagram. #musclehustle