Strengthening the Fibers of Our Relationships

It is still dark as I sneak out of the house and head to a local gym. Middle age has made it harder to stay physically fit, so this has become a daily activity. I am disciplined and consistent, but I am also in a rut. The young girl at the desk tactfully points out that I might want to try a free trial of a new class they were offering as an alternative to my usual “routine”. I decline, because… well, I am stuck in a rut. I am comfortable with the equipment I am using -- meaning I know how to use it and am only mildly concerned about making a wrong move or otherwise looking ridiculous. Ruts even in exercise are not useful for growth. A friend invited me to tag along as her guest at her gym one recent Saturday morning since it opened earlier than mine.  We did the quick, 30-minute interval workout she usually does. It wasn’t overly strenuous, but it was different. And when I woke up, some muscles were sore. I realized I hadn’t been waking sore most days, so I was likely not experiencing muscle growth.  You see, muscle growth occurs when there is trauma. During strenuous exercise, there is actual damage to the muscle fibers. In response to that damage, cells outside the muscle fibers rally to repair and increase the density of the existing muscle, making it stronger. Thus the exercise enthusiasts’ mantra: “No pain; no gain.”

I recently offended a dear friend of mine. It wasn’t intentional. In fact, I was surprised when she called to confront me.  She was honest and straightforward, yet somehow still kind. I was devastated. I had been inconsiderate and not trustworthy, characteristics I would typically pride myself on. My prideful heart immediately began defending itself, but stopped short. I listened, and with a broken heart, apologized, asked what I could do to make things right and thanked her for her honesty. I was certain things could not be restored. Things would never be the same. Her hurt would be too much, my shame too great. As I hung up the phone and unsteadily continued the meal I was cooking, I began thinking: This was uncomfortable to me because it is so rare in my life. Not rare for me to offend folks, I am sure, but this straightforward, honest response caught me off guard. It is neither routine for me nor comfortable. And it hurt. There was trauma. There was actual damage to the fibers of our relationship.

My friend has called again. We have laughed and shared from our hearts. We have confided in one another. Our relationship was not destroyed; as it healed it was in fact made stronger.

I haven’t altered my exercise regimen yet. I understand the principle of muscle growth, but I am still plodding through my same routine without the unwanted but essential soreness. My body could be stronger, but I am settling for muscle maintenance, instead of muscle growth. Maybe I will commit to a new routine in the coming New Year.

As sad as that is, it would be sadder to not alter my routine interactions in my relationships, and just maintain them when they could grow stronger. And if we as the body of Christ could practice this exercise principle more routinely, just imagine the gain.