I was the kid who walked the school cross country, who stood on third base praying no runners or balls would come my way, and who was so uncoordinated the ’80s aerobics fad held zero appeal. And yet, over the summer holidays, I bested my super-fit husband in the great outdoors.
My husband is a mad keen mountain biker who hits the trails most weekends. During the week, he keeps himself in condition by regularly biking the 30km round trip to and from work, facing a couple of arduous hill climbs on the way home. So imagine my delight when I managed a recent three-hour hike far better than he did!
There we were on the homeward stretch — yet still with 30 minutes of 20,000 steps to go — and poor hubby’s legs were (in his words) ‘turning to jelly’, although I was blissfully powering on ahead.
It turns out that while biking might be great for the upper legs and glutes, it’s doesn’t work the calf muscles nearly as much as walking. Which made the family dog-walker the winner on the day!
Sometimes God nudges us to strengthen muscles in new areas. That can be hard to start with, but if we persevere we reap the rewards.
Last year, our office team decided we’d learn Te Reo Māori (Māori language) to strengthen our bicultural knowledge and commitment. We practised basic words and phrases, gained insight into Māori culture and had a lot of fun. I’m a long way from fluent, but I’m taking steps on the journey.
Some years ago, I became involved in LGBTIQ+ advocacy. At the start, it wasn’t easy. I felt awkward and apologetic as I got to know gay Christians, and I found conversations with some friends and colleagues about how the Church had mistreated LGBTIQ+ people difficult. I also had to do the heavy work of re-examining attitudes and beliefs I’d embraced unquestioningly since childhood. But I persevered.
Walking for my overall wellbeing, learning Māori to respect New Zealand’s first people, and becoming a GLBTIQ+ ally because I believe Christ calls us to welcome all people into God’s family — each of these exercises felt hard at first, yet over time they’ve become instinctive. I’ve realised strength that I didn’t know I possessed until I started stretching some different muscles.
All of us will have muscles God is leading us to flex and strengthen. It might be muscles of faith-fuelled prayer, of bible knowledge or regular bible reading, of friendship or forgiveness, of leadership, of environmental stewardship. If we’re breathing, we always have the opportunity to stretch our muscles and grow a little more.
Christina Tyson has been a Salvation Army officer (minister) for almost 30 years, serving in her husband’s homeland of Australia as well as her native New Zealand. For 16 years she was involved in Salvation Army communications, but now works to support local churches and recruit future leaders. She and her husband Keith live in Wellington, New Zealand, and have three adult children.