The Friday Thought - Facing struggles and challenges

On our journey to Dublin on Friday afternoon I didn’t travel with much hope. After all the German football team were one of the best teams in the world and since the Euro finals, Ireland could be described as poor at best.

One of the formalities in the build-up to any match is the necessity to try and predict the score. Personally I thought if we limited the score to 2-0 it would be a good result. By half time I was beginning to reassess even this modest prediction, 4-0 was looking moderately respectable as a damage limitation exercise. Never in my mind did I envisage the 6-1 score line and looking for a scapegoat I turned to my brother who was attending his first match in the new Aviva Stadium and simply say to him, ‘It was your fault.’ My brother might not have been on the pitch; he didn’t pick the team or decide the tactics to be employed but he was still to blame because he was there in the ground and he has long hair and a beard.

Friday night summed up my week as I set out on the challenge known as the biggest loser. I was full of enthusiasm on Monday night when we gathered in the Sports Hall of Chapel Road Primary School; for this was one event I knew I could put my full body weight behind. Eager and nervous I arrived with my even heavier friend and we strolled up the hill from the car park to the hall wondering would this be enough exercise for the first night. What I discovered in the space of one and a half hours was the unbelievable fact that walking downhill could be more painful than waking up hill. By quarter past seven there were over forty people in the hall and out of the 44 or 45 participants 40 were women. Lacking in confidence in such an environment and feeling a little fearful the men huddled together in a small group as the women compared notes about Weightwatchers and Sliming World. By the time the exercise session was over there was no talk of green or red days, just pain free days. When you think you couldn’t feel worse about yourself because you were out of breath coming up the short hill, in walks the fitness instructor. The contrast couldn’t be more stark, there he was stood all tanned, with a six pack for a stomach, arms like legs and not a hair out of place. I nearly fell about laughing as my 20 stone part-time referee and barman friend declared, ‘that’s me in ten weeks time.’ When some of the older women in the group set eyes on the fitness instructor most of them thought the two sessions would be good value at a fiver a week. By the end of the hour we were all in pain as we were introduced to new forms of inflicting agony and torture. After what was described as a light warm-up we were introduced to various methods of causing acute pain and dislocation to your legs, arms and most of your body. We were all consoled in the safe knowledge that the first evening was only medium intensity. If this is true I’ll be walking like John Wayne well into the New Year.

When I thought I couldn’t get more embarrassed after struggling with leg squats and lunges, not to mention doing planks involving arms, elbows and legs I then had to go on the weighing scales. After stepping on the scales I was immediately told we had a problem. How do you tell your friends you managed to break the scales? But thankfully it was only a technical difficulty which involved the machine and little to do with my weight. On the first night after you have weighed in you receive a print-out which would require a degree in science to comprehend. It was full of consoling news, my weight being the least of my worries. I was duly informed according to the data I am officially obese, hardly rocket science. It seems my ideal weight should be nine stone which I haven’t seen since my first few years in secondary school. Worse of all my body’s current metabolic age is 52. So with such glad tidings I struggled out of the hall and when I went to walk downhill I thought I was going to cry.

When faced with any challenge or wanting to make changes what do we rely on, what is our foundation which provides us with solid ground when confronting decisions or problems? Often we try to rely on our own resources without the help of others, when we try to be too self-reliant and independent. During these occasions disaster strikes and we find ourselves at rock bottom having lost everything. In the story of the rich young man Jesus is challenging us to rely on God alone, to let go of our old securities, our old habits and old way of life and learn to walk the new path of total dependence on God. This requires courage and we all fear change and letting go of what we know as familiar and safe. If we allow God to break down the barriers and obstacles to his presence he will guide us along the way of discipleship. True wisdom is learning to reach out and ask for help, recognising our weakness and limitations and learning to trust the people God has sent into our lives as we journey together towards our homeland in God.