“Suck it up, Buttercup!” Her voice resounds through the park as we heave and gasp for breath. Ropes whipping, tires flipping, muscles building...we all fight to do more than last time - to beat our previous time or reps. This is the “best and worst hour” of my day, as goes the motto for the bootcamp class that I have attended for the last six years. The instructor, Christine, just so happens to be one of my closest friends. I know - I am blessed! Before I started working with her, I was in pretty terrible shape and had never worked out in any significant way. But within a few months under Christine’s training, my doctor told me I had the heart of an athlete - literally! And I must say, I now have the figurative heart of an athlete as well.
What makes Christine unique as a trainer is not her ability to bring out the best in her students, although she does that very well. Nor is it the fact that when we do as she teaches, we see significant results, although that happens as well. No, what is different about my friend Christine is love. She loves us. She loves us when we do succeed, and she loves us when we fail. And the best part? The love - the unconditional, unqualified love that she has for people - comes from the Lord.
She often tells me she loves my guts, and it’s true. Christine has loved me through good times and through bad times. In fact, a few months into my training with her was when I found out I was sick. Looking back at those first few months, I realize that the Lord was preparing me to fight the fight of my life, and He was preparing Christine to become a trainer who fights with and for her students. For many who are going through chemotherapy and surgery, exercise is moved to the back burner. We feel sick and tired and incapable of accomplishing difficult physical tasks. But my friend did not let me stay there. She pushed me to push myself. We continued to meet at the gym, to run together, to attend bootcamp...she let me do what I could, recognizing it was not what it once was, but she reminded me it would be better again...one day. And because of that training - because she never let me stop - I came through the other side victorious.
Christine wasn’t just my trainer during those months of treatment and the years of recovery. She was my friend, struggling with me - right next to me. For most of the 16 chemotherapy treatments, she sat in the chair beside mine, advocating for me and encouraging me. She was with me in the hospital after the surgery, praying for me and helping me. She gave me hope, encouraged my faith, and especially showed me limitless love.
Early in the process she brought ring pops for me to one of my treatments. I’m not sure why it struck us so funny...perhaps because we were two grown women sitting and sucking ring pops...perhaps because ring pops conjure up a picture of care-free, happy-go-lucky times, and the reality of what we were doing was anything but care-free. For whatever reason, those ring pops became a symbol of God’s grace and protection - offering to me the hope that life would be easy again.
The truth is, life did not ever get easy again - maybe it never was all that easy in the first place. But it is easier, and much of that is thanks to Christine. She prepared me, physically and emotionally, to battle cancer, and stayed by my side to battle it with me. As I continue to struggle against fear and discouragement, she struggles with me. I have never doubted her love for me, and I pray that she always knows how much “I love her guts!”