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My friend showed me an important lesson in spartan focus


By James Hogan

Back to my friend Ian… He used his place on the Canadian Olympic team and the connections he made to lay the groundwork for his future as a top level personal trainer for professional athletes. Being a hard working, accomplished fellow, his endeavor launched well and gained quite a stable of well known, top notch athletes from professional baseball, hockey and football.

In fact, I met Ian when he had temporarily relocated to help a high profile free agent wide receiver adjust to his new environment in San Diego, then the home of the NFL’s Chargers.

I knew what Ian did for a living, but we didn’t talk much about it. Often folks have other things they wish to talk about with their minister. It’s also been my position that a minister shouldn’t walk around starstruck in the presence of celebrity or well known athletes because that stifles real opportunities to dive into richer subjects. Well known people have enough folks goo-goo eyed when they’re around.

We finally did talk at length about his business when we were riding together through the desert between California and Arizona, moving some of his equipment back to the Phoenix area after his short season in San Diego.

This all came to mind recently as I started plotting out a new men's group through Faithbridge called Man of God. I’ve felt drawn to really challenge the men of our church – and of our community – to aim higher. To shoot for noble, lofty expressions of manhood as God defines it in His word.

One of the first things that came up was just how many obstacles and excuses saturate our society, leaving us with a vast swath of chronological men who neither know what real manhood is nor how broken our process of growing boys into men has become.

The Apostle Paul says in the word “When I became a man, I put away childish things,” which was the way for men since time immemorial… until now. Now “men” play video games in their 50s, and smoke pot recreationally in their 70s. Children, across a wide section of our society, are raised by harried single mothers, their biological donor “father” nowhere to be seen. I could go on for pages, but you get the point.

Thinking about these obstacles took me back to the day that Ian walked me into his training gym in the Valley of the Sun. The place, about the size of a high school gym, was nondescript from the outside, sitting in an industrial park.

Inside, it was even less eye-catching. The floor and walls were painted battleship gray, the same hue as the myriad weight lifting machines and benches. The gym mats were black or gray, and there were no TVs, artwork or even signage in sight.

After carrying in a couple of loads of material, I asked where the bathroom was and Ian pointed me to a gray door near his small office.

I pushed open the door and felt disoriented. The “bathroom” was a small locker room. Whereas the gym smelled of rubber, paint and sweat, the bathroom smelled of cedar from the five cedar lockers across from the door.

The lockers had Egyptian cotton towels neatly folded on their cushioned bench seats.There was art on the wall, a TV mounted in the corner and beautiful tile on the floor. The bathroom sinks and showers had gold faucetry and were sparkling clean.

I walked back out to the gym floor and asked Ian about the contrast.

“These guys are used to having the finest things in life. The locker room is their space. They come in, put their stuff in there and get ready to work. Then they’re mine once they enter the gym,” He said.

“No frills, no distractions. Just focus. We’re here to make them better at what they’re already great at. No time for lack of focus. They can go back to the comforts and distractions when we’re done.”

I’ve never forgotten that, and I find myself thinking that we live in a time where the only way to truly pursue godly growth is to bring about that same kind of focus.

I don’t have it all figured out just yet… but I think Ian’s approach has an important role in what’s around the corner.

The Man of God group will be open to any man… but it won’t be for every man.

It will be for those who desire that growth and impact more than they desire the excuses and distractions we’ve all been steeped in for far too long.

Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church.


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