"What are YOU doing here?!"
The question was posed with such force that it practically knocked me over. I was just standing in the gym locker room, minding my own business, readying my bag and coat to head out the door when the shock occurred. The questioner, a woman I'd never seen before, came bursting through the doorway huffing and puffing. One look at me and she came to a screeching halt. She stopped dead in her tracks, dropped her jaw and posed her question. "What are YOU doing here?"
This wasn't a case of mistaken identity or a curious joke. She was truly perplexed and startled by my presence in the gym locker room. She wouldn't be the first to ponder such a question. My severely thin body has raised the query in the minds of many onlookers. What am I doing in a gym? Why am I so underweight? Do I have a problem? And is it physical or could it be mental?
What the questioning woman couldn't know by simply looking upon my outward appearance is the inner war that has stripped my body of its weight and natural cushioning. Six years into my battle with multiple sclerosis has left me shockingly small in size yet strong in spirit.
As I stood in the locker room, feeling vulnerable and exposed by the inquiry of the stranger, I was paralyzed to answer her question. In my mind the past six years, the journey that led to my body's current condition, flashed through my mind but no words formed on my lips.
Thankfully the whirling dervish of a woman standing before me didn't wait long for me to formulate a coherent response. She was off and running about the various reasons people join a gym: lose weight, tone up, gain muscle, shed fat. Her chatter faded into the distance as she continued on into the back of the locker room, unfazed by the bewildered look on my face and my utter silence.
For the mystery woman in the gym locker room that strange encounter was nothing more than a passing moment but for me it posed a question I couldn't shake. What am I doing here? For years I've fought for my body's survival but that isn't really my purpose. That's not why I'm here.
The questioning woman was long gone when the answer came perfectly formed in my mind: to serve God and bring Him glory. Whether I eat or drink or workout or stay home, the purpose is always the same. The purpose of my everyday, everywhere existence and being is the same on Sunday morning as it is on Friday night. It is the same at a perfect weight or a weight that is too low. I am a messenger of the Lord, a mouthpiece for His goodness and a proclaimer of His power.
Should I ever happen to find myself again confronted with the mystery questioner from the gym locker room I'll know just what to say. "I'm here to honor God and bring Him glory. How about you?"