Years ago when I was a wannabe gymnast, we finished every three-hour workout with ‘conditioning’. Theoretically, these exercises were supposed to develop strength and flexibility, but we all knew the real reasoning behind them: eliminate the last ounce of energy before those kids crawl out the door. The exercise I remember most vividly is leg lifts. These were not the wimpy,lying on your back, lifting your legs in the air, kind of leg raises. No, our leg lifts had the potential to turn wannabe gymnasts into something more.
One wall of the gym was lined with rows of wooden bars. We would clamber up the rungs and hang from the top bar. When the coach gave the signal we would raise our straight legs all the way up to our noses where we could check out the color of our toenail polish. The legs were then carefully lowered. We did a set of twenty of those and then, just in case, we did another twenty. The wall at our backs prevented us from swinging our legs up, so we completed each leg lift by using our abdominal muscles.
I remember when my coach told me that having strong abs would help with giving birth. Ewww…..gross. Not really a great motivator for a 14 year-old, but it turns out he was right. I never amounted to much of a gymnast, but I became an expert at birthing babies. If they gave out grades in the delivery room, I would have gotten an A in ‘pushing’.
Today personal trainers talk a lot about core strength. Basically, our ‘core’ is the muscles in our torso that give stability and strength to our body. All movement begins with the core.
Those leg raises and core strength recently came to mind when I was talking with someone about the ever-changing dynamics of a local church. Some people seem to think that newcomers displace the old timers. Long time members feel pushed aside in favor of newcomers. I look at it differently. I see the established members as the ‘core’: the ones who provide strength and stability for the rest of the church. As established core members, they need to continue what they are already doing and, at the same time, pull newcomers into positions where they too can become a part of the core.
Personal trainers say that having strong core muscles is essential for the health of the body; I say the same thing is true for the health of the church Body.