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Conversations from the Gym, Part Two: Amazing Grace

Posted: March 12, 2015

By Tom Dolan and Reverend Ryan Fehrmann

I’ve been talking with Reverend Ryan Fehrmann at the gym. He’s the pastor at Grace Lutheran, and happens to have an interest in powerlifting. Recently, he also embarked on a weight loss program.

I’d made it a point to spend a little time with him during his workouts. After just a few minutes of conversation, it became clear there were some similarities between faith and fitness.

In our first article, he showed us how the Bible compares discipline in training to maintaining our faith. This week, we’re going to look at how grace and forgiveness are crucial to both.

We all know people who’ve lost a lot of weight, only to gain it all back. Many of us have done that ourselves. I’ve seen people work incredibly hard to lose 100 lbs, and then put it right back on.

At that point, they have to do it all over again, and they know how hard it’s going to be. But they’re also dealing with a special kind of guilt and shame. They know they had it, and they let it go.

I’ve experienced this in my own life. We all fall down for some reason or another. Sometimes it’s hard getting back up. Fortunately, there’s Grace and forgiveness. Here’s how Ryan sees it:

There are three obstacles: the Devil, the World, and our sinful flesh. All three often conspire to derail us. These are the voices (inside and out) that spin lies like: “You can never be forgiven for that sin.” “Go ahead and indulge yourself today.” Or, “You’re not good enough.”

The worse part is that these voices cause people to start looking at church or other Christians the wrong way. Instead of seeing it as a place of hope, they see it as a reminder of their failures. Yes, we fall down, even crash sometimes, but God forgives us and sets us on our feet again, back into the race.

Sometimes people can’t forgive themselves. It’s a shame. Jesus wipes the slate clean but they continue in a self induced sorrow.

I think physical training runs into some similar pitfalls, I suspect there are those who are also discouraged by the various voices, both inside and out.

They look around at all the equipment and all those who are fit, and it reminds them of their failures. But like the church, it’s not; it’s also a place for transformation and hope.

The people here should encourage one another and forgive themselves when they fall down, just like in a church. I have off days lifting… why I’ve had off years sadly, but forget that… forgive that!

I don’t need to win anything. Instead, I’m going to keep physically training for that fuller life and benefits of the good stewardship of this body God has given me. I’m also going to keep spiritually training to run the race set before me. They actually work together, you know. Discipline in one area often leaks over into other areas!

As I was listening to Reverend Fehrmann, it became apparent that we need to learn to forgive ourselves. If God has given us a fresh start, we need to start fresh. Let the past go and just get started.

We also probably need to do more to encourage people when they come in. Whether they’re just getting started, or getting a fresh start, they need our support.

A kind word here, or a quick word of encouragement there, can go a long way. Let’s make a point to reach out to each other. After all, we’re all in this together!