If you use the same gym as I do in the Runcorn area, and earlier this week you happened to see a strange woman stepping out of the shower with what appeared to be a t-shirt wrapped around her head, that was me. Please, let me explain. I have a love hate relationship with gyms. I love signing up to the whole packaged idea of getting into shape in a funky hard core dance trance blaring out the speakers kind of way. I hate actually going. I hate taking time out of the day which could be used in a thousand different ways. I hate having to remember to pack my gym bag and put it in the car. I hate doing the walk of shame to the changing rooms, with my head down, desperately trying not to make eye contact with those beautiful people who clearly do NOT need to be in the gym because they’re pretty much perfect already. I hate hate HATE stepping onto that tread mill and pressing the big green ‘go’ button. It gets better after that, but the build-up is so massive I’m afraid to say, with one thing and another, you know how it is, I’ve just been so busy, I do have a toddler to look after don’t you know, after all is exercise really good for you, I have not been for a few weeks.
Tuesday, however, was going to be different. Tuesday was one of those days when I woke up feeling determined to get to the gym. It all went swimmingly. Pack gym bag. Check. Put gym bag in car. Check. Go back into house for forgotten trainers. Put trainers in car. Check. Make sure no meetings scheduled over lunch. Check. Download some good running music. Check. Find the gym, do the walk of shame, get changed, get on treadmill, press go, start running. Check check check.
Puffed out, sweaty and very red in the face, 45 minutes later I stagger back to the changing room thinking longingly of those beautiful showers, get everything out of my locker, and am about to change when – ARGH! – where on earth is my towel? What I thought was my towel was in fact a sweat towel they encourage you to use to wipe down the equipment (ew) and is roughly the size of a postage stamp. Are you kidding me?
What do I do?!
I had a few options. I could not shower and run the risk of alienating my new colleagues at Church House with my ‘just been to the gym and not showered’ scent. Maybe not. I could do the 45minute drive home, shower, and get back to work just in time to reply to some emails and drive home again. Definitely not. Or I could search through my gym bag and find anything remotely absorbent. Hence the t-shirt wrapped around my head.
Here’s the point of telling you this. I may have looked a bit odd, it may have taken a little longer, other people may have had a flashy matching their socks and trainers and gym shorts sort of towel, but I walked out of the gym just as clean and dry as the best of them. The t-shirt got the job done.
We’re hosting an ABCD (asset based community development) introductory event in a few weeks time and my rather clumsy gym experience got me thinking. Throughout this lovely diocese there are churches looking in their gym bags despairing the lack of a towel. Well, not quite but you get what I mean. They see this massive job that needs doing in their local community and they’re desperate to share the message of Jesus’ love but feel they’ve not got the resources. ABCD begins by saying ‘what have you got’? rather than ‘what do you need?’ I needed a towel, but I didn’t have one so it was no good slumping down on the changing room floor and crying. Well, not for more than a few minutes anyway. What did I have? I had a t-shirt, I had an incredibly small but in the end surprisingly absorbent towel, I had the desire to be clean, and I had the motivation to make a difference. That’s all that was needed.
The same is true for all of our church communities. We are embarrassingly blessed with assets, but sometimes we’re so overwhelmed by the job that needs doing we forget about what we already have.
The disciples had the exact same problem. In Mark 6 they recognise that the thousands of people who have come to hear Jesus speak and have stayed all day in the hot sun will need refreshment. Jesus’ response is to tell the disciples to feed them. They tell Jesus to do so would take half a years wages which they don’t have, what are they to do? Jesus instructs them ‘”How many loaves do you have?” he asked. ‘Go and see.’” How much do you already have? What have you already been blessed with? What has God given you to do the job he has asked you to do? Begin there, Jesus says, because God has already given you what you need.
The end of the story in Mark is, of course, that they all ate and were satisfied. The five loaves and two fishes were all that was needed to bring Jesus’ blessing and love and grace to that gathered community by the lake. They went away satisfied in body and in mind and in spirit, thanks to the work of God. Jesus has called us to feed our local communities in body, mind and spirit – and he has already given us everything we need. We just need to look into our gym bags to find it.
Author: Rev Jenny Mayo-Lythall
Date: 22 May 2014
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