"I want to be an animal. I want to be a beast!"
I didn't intent to eavesdrop on my fellow gym-goers conversation but her adamant proclamation caught my attention. The declaration of intent was made a young woman, just about my age, sporting brightly colored blonde hair and thick layers of eye shadow. As she chatted with her gym partner in between sets I couldn't help but hear the details of her spirited conversation.
"I don't care about cute purses and clothes. I just want to get big and beastly. When people see me I want them to stop and go, 'Woah!'"
The two abandoned their squats and entered into a spirited, and loud, conversation of meal plans, cardio workouts and strength training schedules. Over the course of the next ten minutes they covered every topic from water intake to weight class. The two sweaty "beasts" traversed the world of power-lifting as I practiced my curtsy lunges on my mat nearby.
As I picked up my dinky five pound kettle bell in the presence of the nearby workout animals I felt overly conscious of my lack of beastliness. In the gym's mirror I caught a glimpse of my twiggy legs and was overcome with embarrassment. I felt exposed and vulnerable. In a world of beast-wannabes I felt like an ant about to be crushed.
In that moment I wanted to put my pathetic weights back on the shelf and leave the gym behind. It wasn't envy that caused me such heartache. Trust me when I say my fitness goals do not include becoming an animal or a beast. I just want to be normal. My fitness goal is to simply be healthy and whole. I don't desire a body that elicits "Woahs" and animal-adoration. Nor do I desire a stickily figure that elicits a whole different kind of "Woah!" - a "Woah" that I've heard countless times in the last seven years.
In that moment of intense, raw vulnerability I wanted to put the weights down and leave. I wanted to escape the affront to my emotional instability and flee from the presence of the beasts. But something in me wouldn't run. It was as if my ankles had weights holding me back. I stayed still, frozen to my fitness mat.
"Don't flee the presence of the beast." It was as if God's voice were speaking just as clearly as the workout buffs a few feet away. I couldn't run. God wouldn't let my conscious rest with such a cowardly act. I had to stay and complete what I started. For some reason I knew it was God's will that I finish my workout.
And so I did. I picked up my five pound weights and did another set of lunges. I even threw in a couple rounds of downward dogs for good measure. They weren't beastly but they were beneficial for my back and my spirit because by deciding to stay and finish what I started I made a declaration of my own: "I want to be strong in the Lord."
To the world I may look like a little twig of a girl. I may look weak and delicate and, according to the world of power-lifting, that's true. Heaven knows I'm not destined for a squatting competition any time soon. But I am strong in an entirely different way. I am strong and confident in the Lord.
The strength I have can't be measured in weights, squats and dead lifts. Those measurements could never quantify the kind of strength that is in this little frame. The mirror will never give an accurate picture of the muscle that is in my spirit.
I finished my sets and completed my workout because God has made me stronger than the the gym's mightiest beasts. The Lord God empowered me so power-lifters, don't be fooled by the five pound weights. This little woman is much bigger, much stronger - dare I say much beastlier - than her body gives her credit for.