Many years ago, I worked out for a time at the Bally’s gym in Mission Valley—for about a year, I think. For three of those months, I worked with a trainer named Andre, who I began to call Andre the terrible after a while. He was sort of like a Latino version of Stone Cold Steve Austin from the WWE, and I remember the first day I came in he asked me what level of motivation was I comfortable with.
I asked him what he meant, and he said how hardcore did I want him to be with my training. I told him somewhere in the middle would be OK, because I knew he didn’t want to see a grown man cry. He told me it happened more than I would think. It wasn’t that comforting.
Usually, I would show up for my sessions and he would weigh me in, and then proceed to cardio before weights. One time, I showed up and there was another guy there, too. Andre wanted to know if I would mind working out with another guy because he was double booked. I said ok.
I don’t remember the other guy’s name, but he whistled when I stepped on the scale. Jerk.
The cardio went well enough, and then we went to the weights. Andre put me on this butterfly machine, I think it was called. Something like that. The other guy went over to the free weights and started loading up a bar.
Andre stood behind me and barked in my ear while I struggled to bring my arms together in front of my chest. After about 30 seconds, I heard my workout partner yell “f—-!!” from the other side of the weight room.
The man had a barbell with what looked to be over 200 pounds pinning him to the weight bench like an insect.
“Are you trying to F—— KILL YOURSELF?!” Andre screamed at him. “What did I tell you about f—— free weights!?”
“Use a spotter with that much weight! What if that f—— barbell crushed your larynx?”
I was thinking about that day this morning when I went to the Roadrunner for some caffeine. Andre was clearly no poet, but he had a really good point.
If the weight is more than you can handle alone, you need a spotter.
I thought about that today in the context of all the messing up I’d done over the course of my life. All the mistakes I’d made. All the sins I’d committed. All the people I’d hurt. I spent–no, wasted–so much time trying to get by on my own strength, when it was obvious that wasn’t enough.
Now, when it’s my tendency to dwell on the past and all the bad, it occurs to me the weight I’ve accumulated could crush me if I let it. I can’t lift it alone. I never could.
For most of my life, instead of looking for a spotter, I just loaded the weight on my barbell without thinking too much about it. There were times when it felt like the weight was indeed about to crush my “f—— larynx.”
I’d think about my past, and everything that entailed and I would quickly convince myself of my worthlessness due to how I’d always seemed to find stupid ways to get myself in trouble, and hurt people and even myself without giving it much thought in advance. I would do things because I felt it would benefit me in some way. Or because it would feel good, or make my life easier. Sometimes it even did for a time.
I was able to move past those times, thank goodness. Yet I would still think about them, and it would almost paralyze me when I thought what a f— up I’d been. Still was, sometimes.
And that was one of the most important things I learned about God. He’s a really good spotter. When you’re holding that loaded barbell over your chest, his will be the hands hovering over the bar in case you drop it.
He won’t just yank it out of your hands and lift for you. Not without asking, anyway. But when the bar gets too heavy—when the weight of sin and years and pain feels is so much your arms start shaking and you know it’s only a matter of time before you drop the thing—there’s help.
You don’t have to lift all of that weight yourself.
It isn’t always going to be some ethereal hand reaching down to yank 250 pounds off your chest. Sometimes the help comes in the form of a bald-headed, angry Latino personal trainer. The point is, when you’re dealing with a lot of weight, it’s a good idea to take a partner.
Use a spotter. That probably looks a little different for anyone.
Over the course of my life, I’ve been to a few AA and FA meetings. One of the first things they’d tell you to do is call your sponsor when you needed help.
I didn’t want to at the time, but I get it now.
Sometimes you don’t need to be touching that bar at all when you’re alone. I would think I was just going to lift this crap off my chest, when really I was on the way to crushing my larynx.
Maybe that’s happened to you, too.
Use a spotter when you’re lifting heavy weight. Maybe that’s a pastor. A sponsor. Or even simply a friend.
The weight of a lifetime of garbage can really pile up fast. Sin, mistakes, all the things you’ve done or been part of.
It’s heavy, man.
Ask for help. Being a tough guy doesn’t mean a thing if your neck has a barbell through it.
I think you’ll find that everyone, everyone needs a spotter sometimes.