One of the guys on our church softball team had invited me to a lift-a-thon at the Work Out Center, a fitness establishment in Columbiana, OH. It was a fund-raiser for a young woman named Chelsi Figley, whom I hadn’t met. She was born with Spina Bifida and has never had the use of her legs. So she uses her arms – and she uses them a lot. The event at the Work Out Center was to raise money for Chelsi to attend the 2010 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Powerlifting World Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It had been many years since I had been in a place like that. A few of the machines looked familiar, but I was certainly out of my element. The men (and a couple of women) were very serious about working out and were in amazing shape. Dean, the guy who had invited me, benched 490 pounds that day. One other guy there did even more. The messages on some of their shirts advertised the intensity of their commitment. One of my favorites read: “No, I’m not on steroids . . . but thanks for asking.”
When the sponsored lifters finished it was time for the woman of honor to show her skills. Brian, Chelsi’s trainer and owner of the gym, strapped Chelsi’s legs to the bench. With several men and women of incredible size and strength surrounding her and shouting encouragement, Chelsi lifted more weight than I ever had, and she did it several times. It was a bit touch-and-go at one point, but the roaring of her fellow weight-room warriors urged her on.
“C’mon Chels, this is nothing for you. You can do this!”
“You can beat this, Chelsi!”
“Show those Malaysians what we’re made of in Columbiana!”
In her drive to be the most she could be despite her disadvantages, Chelsi had become a symbol of strength for the community of people in that room. Her presence at the gym had motivated them to greater achievements for themselves. On that day in the gym, they returned the favor.
I tucked myself away behind one of the machines to hide my emotional response to what I’d just seen. All I needed was another reason to feel like the least masculine guy in the room. As Chelsi sat up I noticed that she had writing on her t-shirt as well, but hers was a bit different from the rest. At the top in bold letters were the words No Surrender, followed by 1st Corinthians 16:13: “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. (NIV)”
Nobody would blame Chelsi if her approach to life was with lowered expectations. But if she had viewed life that way, she wouldn’t have accomplished much. The resolve she shows in the weight room is matched only by the tremendous faith from which it is derived. By taking Jesus seriously about his life to the fullest extent promise, she has achieved incredible things. And, she’s not done. Her new goal is making the 2012 United States Paralympic team.
Chelsi put aside all the fear and anxiety of such an immense pursuit. She knows that life to the fullest extent is possible for anyone, but huge risks are required to realize it. Anybody who wants life to the fullest extent through faith in Jesus Christ must do the same two things. First, we must have the courage to dream about the possibilities, as crazy as they may seem. The next step is just as crucial: taking the risks required to pursue them.
This is a sample from chapter 8: If Happens of my book The Attractive Shepherd. Click on “About The Book” and “Read Chapter 1″ above for more info. For samples from other chapters click on “Book Exerpets” just under the Twitter updates on the right side of this page. Comments are appreciated.