"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith . . ." Hebrews 12:1-2a
Many of you already saw the video. I shared it almost immediately on Facebook. But it’s one of those stories that I believe oughta be repeated. It’s the story of Ernestine Shepherd, 77 years old. And a bodybuilder, the oldest in the world.
I watched a video interview of her and here’s what I took away from it: It all began with a sister who she loved. They were very close. Did everything together. Then one day her sister said to Ernestine that they needed to “quit being couch potatoes” and start exercising. So they did. Weight training.
They enjoyed it; particularly they enjoyed working out together. Then her sister suggested that they needed a new goal: to be the oldest female bodybuilders in the world. To try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Why not?
What Ernestine didn’t know was that her sister was facing some very serious health issues. Not too long before her sister died and before Ernestine knew her sister was going to die, her sister told her that if she did pass, she would want her to carry on and reach the goal they had set together. But when she died not too long after that conversation, Ernestine was thrown into serious depression; panic attacks; acid reflux. And their shared goal retreated into the background.
Until Ernestine had a dream. As she tells it, her sister came to her in the dream and told her to get busy and fulfill the promise she had made. A couple of weeks later, Ernestine did get busy. And now, some years later, Ernestine is not only recognized as the oldest Competitive Bodybuilder in the world (Take a look at her video – she looks pretty healthy to me!), but she is also an inspiration to many, many older folks in Baltimore, where she teaches others how to take better care of themselves.
But this most likely would never have happened had she not had a dream and been reminded of a promise she had made.
Those of us who follow Christ also have a dream. And it’s much, much bigger than that of being inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records (though I have to admit that would be pretty cool). And, like Ernestine, sometimes we need reminders of the promises we have made. Promises to obey the One who has saved us. Promises to love our enemies. Promises to fight the good fight. Promises to love one another. Promises to pray without ceasing. Promises to pursue pursue holiness.
And even though Ms. Shepherd gives us a great example of perseverance, determination and the great rewards that come through hard work, we should never forget that “. . . bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Maybe we can learn to have the same diligent approach to Christ and His Body that Ms. Shepherd has shown us toward the body God gave her?