“Push, you can do it, you’re almost there; you got it” he kept yelling as sweat poured off me and I grunted through the completion of another set of pushups. After years of resisting those personal trainers wandering around the gym, I finally decided to hire one. I’ll call my trainer “Joe” the short muscular twenty-something black guy who I’ve been paying to push me around the gym this month. In the past I worked out on my own convinced that my solitary workouts were sufficient and I pushed myself enough. But Joe pushes me more. He pushes me beyond what I think I’m capable of and it doesn’t feel good. Joe gets on my nerves some days. Sigh. But the results will be worth it… so he keeps telling me.
My gym routines have reminded me that most things in my life worth achieving have not been solitary ventures. Someone was usually there spurring me on to better results, pushing me beyond what I thought I was capable of… and it didn’t always feel good.
Solitude. I like it. But often excellence comes with a coach, a partner, a friend. I’m convinced I finished high school because my teachers and my mom pushed me; finished college because mom and family pushed; earned a few graduate degrees because mom, family and friends pushed. That final degree was especially tough, like giving birth to something, I pushed. “Push, push, push,” there’s something or someone inside you eager to get out.
As much as my natural tendency is to resist “trainers” I know that I need them. And so I welcome the gentle push. Joe and I talk a lot between the sweating and the grunts. He’s young enough to be my son. He’s taught me a few things already, more than exercise moves. Our conversations flow much more fluidly than my abdominal crunches; we talk politics, culture, music, dreams, and God-talk. He’s a brilliant young dude and I enjoy listening to his view of the world between laughter and pain. Intergenerational, cross-gender holy moments are happening between Joe and me. We each have something the other needs, and I’m sure we also annoy one another at times.
In her discussion of small groups, Dr. Roberta Hestenes once stated that when a group of people first meet, each of the members of the group may experience conflicting feelings of both attraction and repulsion to one another. Members know that something more will be expected of them in the group, which they simultaneously desire and fear. Push me; but don’t push me.
Besides those who are just like us, God challenges each of us to be in relationship with others who are not like us. Perhaps they are our “trainers.” We need to give and receive from those trainers who push us to be better than we are. Whether it be age, race, ethnicity, gender, or nationality I require diverse relationships in my life because they make me more human, they make me whole. I enjoy the tapestry, just as I am occasionally annoyed by the tapestry.
I’ll see Joe again tomorrow. His bright face, waiting eagerly to push me around the gym; alongside his questioning gaze “maybe this old chick has some wisdom exchange for me today.”
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Iron sharpens iron, and one friend sharpens another ~Proverbs 27:17