Chin Over the Bar
You might say I’m a glutton for punishment. ...
“Crossfit is the only sport where the loudest cheers are for the person who comes in last.”
A big square warehouse, the “box,” takes shape early in the morning as equipment is neatly arranged in rows as we prepare for the competition. Slowly, athletes fill the space. Crossfitters begin to gather; some with many years of experience and some, like me, with just a few months of experience. I’m in the first “heat” of the day’s competition. I line up in front of my equipment and get ready for the count down. 3…2…1. In a mad fury kettle bells being to fly, voices begin to grunt in effort and exhaustion, onlookers cheer and scream in support. After an hour of some of the most intense and grueling workouts, I fall out on the mat with little energy to even open my eyes. Scores are posted and I painfully roll to my feet and make my way over to the scoreboard to see where I placed after giving the best effort of my life.
Athletics seems to naturally bring about the atmosphere of competition. After all, the point of most competition is to win. To beat your opponent. From Pee wee soccer, to professional football the goal is the same. WIN. Then I discovered Crossfit. The goal of course is to win! But, the other athletes are not your primary opponents. Every Crossfitter knows this!
Every person in a Crossfit “box” is fighting against the person they were yesterday. The box is a place of safety, security and support. Once you show up, you enter the fellowship and comradery of your fellow athletes. Each of us are fighting our personal battles. Some are battling addictions, some laziness and obesity. Various people are combating depression, recovering from a failed marriage or insecurity. Everyone is aware that each athlete has their own personal reasons for putting in the work. Every athlete knows that it would have been much easier to stay in bed. But they didn’t. They showed up! And everyone respects that! Everyone celebrates that.
I once listened to a speaker completely bomb on a sermon. It was an epic fail. Let’s call him Lucas. Lucas was very young and inexperienced and found himself on a stage in front of 800 people in a very affluent church. The crowd included several well known and well versed preachers, leaders and professionals. Three minutes into his opening remarks and he experienced his worse nightmare. Lucas choked. Complete stage fright. He broke out in a sweat, voice got weak, hands got shaky and he doubled over at the waist and proceeded to sit down. It seemed as though He was petrified at the thought of his homiletical skills being compared to the talents of others in the room. He managed to feign sickness for his humiliation and disappeared behind the stage.
The embarrassment in the room was palpable. Some chuckled, some covered their faces in shame. Others sighed in annoyance. But very few, if any cheered him on. No one shouted, “you can do it,” “dig deeper,” or “get back up,” “try again.” No one offered water, a towel or a pep talk. Instead they bowed their heads and shrugged their shoulders in disappointment. It did not feel like I was in a room of safety security and support. It felt instead like I was in the live audience of American Idol or Showtime at the Apollo.
What they failed to appreciate was that this speaker, like all other speakers and leaders, was fighting a battle beneath the surface. In that room, among professionals, leaders, preachers, ministry experts, he felt such immense competition, that he buckled under the weight. How did the spirit of competition enter into ministry? When did we start to compare the size of our churches, the number of baptisms, the number of likes and views on social media, the number of warm bodies in the pews? When did we start to see other leaders as our competitors instead of our teammates?
There’s a really strong chance that the person on that stage had a fight with their spouse that morning. It’s possible they are struggling with depression or addictions. Insecurity is likely gripping them on the inside or maybe they’ve decided to leave the church, and this is their last message. Men and women get behind the mic all the time while in the midst of financial ruin, the terminal illness of a loved one, a recent cancer diagnoses. The person on stage has some buried flaw or struggle he or she is hoping you won’t see, while simultaneously hoping and praying they will overcome it. It matters not how well they exegete the text, or how tight their runs are. It would have been much easier for them to STAY IN BED. But they didn’t. They showed up! And for that reason alone, they need to be respected, celebrated and supported.
As I hobbled to the scoreboard, back aching, quads burning, lungs heaving, I looked up for my name and discovered I came last! Out of 10 women, I came 10th, but you couldn’t tell by the atmosphere in the room or by the smile on my face, or by the accolades from my supporters. The positive energy I felt from those around me was electric! They say, “Crossfit is the only sport where the loudest cheers are for the person who comes in last.” Placing on the podium came second to my goal of overcoming fear! Fear was the loser that day. Depression was the loser that day. Not me. I was the victor…over laziness, over obesity, over weakness. I knew it, and so did every one of my competitors. That’s what makes them my teammates.