By Brad Bloom, Publisher
It used to be, not too long ago, that only certain colors were used for certain things. Basketballs were only orange, soccer balls were only black and white, barbell plates were only metal gray, athletic shoes were mostly white and so forth. Fortunately we’ve become much better at using color both for creativity and functionality. The endless supply of colorful fitness apparel and personal gear gives us tremendous variety from which we can customize and make our workouts or sport a true creative expression of our personality. The colors aren’t just on us they are all around us at the gym or sport activity where equipment is color-coded making it easier to reach for the right weight or level of resistance.
DIVERSITY - DO YOU "GET" IT?
When you think of diversity it can be easy to accept it, build your understanding of it and enjoy it in terms of what you GET. You choose to live in a diverse city because you have greater access to a wide variety of shopping and entertainment. You eat diverse ethnic meals enjoying a fuller array of flavors. You do diverse exercises to continually change your workout and improve gains. These days you can even “switch it up” at church as multiple services and locations can give you a diverse praise, worship and fellowship experience.
But for your faith, your fitness and indeed all of YOU to truly be diverse you’ve got to do more. Diversity has to be more than a creative and functional means for you to get the most out of life. It has to be the foundation on which you build a creative and functional commitment to being life to others. How do you do that?
First, you need to make sure your scope of “diversity” is truly diverse. That requires you to expand your vision way beyond just the black and white of it – even beyond the colors of multi-ethnicity. Diversity takes many forms: age, gender, disabilities, language, education, socio-economic, religious, sexuality, fitness ability/wellness, personalities and ultimately values and life-mission to name a few. How many of those do you respect? I’m not talking about respecting the differences, I’m talking about valuing the people that have the differences.
I used to be a member of a YMCA in Indiana. In my opinion they very modestly recognize the “Christian” component of their organizational identity. BUT – they foster an environment where the art of diversity is rather naturally nurtured. The place is highly multi-racial. That is only the beginning. They intentionally offer programming for the 50+ market, the novice, the de-conditioned or out-of-shape and the disabled.
What you get is quite a juxtaposed space where a bodybuilder is pushing heavy weights next to a wheelchair bound youth trying to maintain dexterity. You’ll encounter older overweight adults getting health evaluations alongside a group exercise class. You may finish your Y workout with a soak in the hot tub where you could very easily find an older Hispanic woman talking with a young African-American man about training for an upcoming 5K race sharing the same bubbling water with an agnostic, Christian and gay all talking about the community garden.
If that is too “in-my-face diversity” for you then you may not be a member at this Y for long. Many however find it to be inconvenient, unattractive, distracting, socially challenging and yet tolerable. Certainly it is consistent. You won’t find a day or a time where everyone is just like you or just like the person you would like for them to be. So you go, you exercise, you do your thing and you tolerate the diversity like the hold-up at the door because the disabled person is slowly entering, the odor of the overweight smoker exercising next to you and the ignorance of the beginners and less serious that don’t know what the heck they are doing. Some only ever learn TOLERANCE. Thankfully many others learn to celebrate diversity.
THE CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY - GIVING GOD TO OTHERS
That celebration isn’t some “look at how good of a person I am” attitude to post on Facebook or stroke egos at the coffee shop. It isn’t a slogan on a t-shirt, poster or bumper sticker. It’s not a media campaign to sway public opinion. It’s holding the door and offering to help the disabled person who is frustrated because their darn wheelchair is getting stuck and holding them back from getting started on the workout they want to do too. It is smiling at and admiring the smelly older overweight smoker that is quite honestly scared but trying nonetheless with very little evidence of progress and even less hope. It is participating in the conversation --- the fellowship with those who know less than you, have less wealth than you, don’t look as good as you or don’t have the peace you have found in God. Maybe they just think differently, behave differently or value differently. Your fitness begins to celebrate diversity when your physical activities are actively helping you to help others. You shift from self-focused exercise to intentional participation. When you evolve to this, you’re doing well. But if you are a Christian you can’t be satisfied yet.
Gyms, schools, businesses, other public places and I suspect churches soon are being challenged these days with Trans-gender considerations of allowing people to use restrooms and locker rooms according to their “self-identity”. I’m not going to get into that conversation here. I mention it though because I believe the concept of self-identity needs to be more clearly understood and then boldly communicated by Christians when it comes to faith.
What does it mean to identify with Christ? More importantly what is the implication on how we behave, if being born again isn’t so much about how we now self-identify but rather about what God now requires of us? This is where your FAITH can celebrate diversity. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.
The colors of fitness are physically moving and spiritually vibrant. Your best way to celebrate diversity is to celebrate the strength and grace of God.
Train strong in Christ,
Brad Bloom, Publisher