A Positive Test

A few weeks ago I tested positive for Covid-19, and I’m very grateful that I suffered only relatively mild symptoms that cleared up in a week or two. I’m also grateful for having been ‘triple-jabbed’, that my asthma didn’t get triggered, and that the fantastic team at EBC covered all the bases whilst I was in isolation! I even managed to write up my next college project whilst away, so there was a bonus there!

Special mention for Philippa, who gave the talk so well on the Sunday I was meant to be preaching that I don’t think I was missed at all (and praise God I’d left my printed notes at church, which I don’t usually do!).

Normal service has been resumed, I am happy to report, and on the whole things didn’t turn out too badly despite my initial fears when I had that positive test!

But to be honest, it’s really a different kind of ‘positive test’ I have in mind to tell you about today. Recently (praise God, this was before I got Covid!) I took part in my first ever proper powerlifting competition. I won’t bore you with too much detail, but it went really well for me and I was over the moon about the whole experience.

It was hard, it was challenging, it was gruelling to train up for and to be honest the day itself was amazing but also a bit daunting. Powerlifting is a sport that requires some skill and some strength, but there is little room for nuance or negotiation – the ‘bar don’t lie’ as they say, and mean old Mr. Gravity doesn’t care how hard you want to lift it or how hard you’ve trained or what your circumstances are! You either lift it to the three judges’ satisfaction (white lights good, red lights bad) or you fail!

Much as I personally have always found training with weights to be a huge boon in life, I know I’m not going to persuade all of you to do it (although you really should!). However, I do want to try to sell you on the idea that you should, in some way, give yourself some kind of a ‘positive test’, as it were.

In other words, step out of your comfort zone and try something that will be new, different and maybe a little bit daunting. Something that makes you go “What? I couldn’t do that!” Couldn’t you, though? And how will you know unless you try?
A friend at church recently took up endurance motor racing and I think it’s fabulous that he’s done so at about my kind of age (er… 50 something…). As with me and my powerlifting, its clearly got him excited and enthused – you know when you see people and their personal lights are very much on? Like that!

Maybe you could dream up a physical challenge. I’ve long been of the view that God didn’t just give us bodies as vehicles to transport our brains around. We’re supposed to use them! And, too, we’re supposed to really live, not merely exist. We’re not all necessarily born to run (sneaky Springsteen reference there!) but I think we are born to push our boundaries, to learn and develop and challenge ourselves.

So you might try a physical challenge, a sporting endeavour, an adventure of some kind. But to be honest, it doesn’t absolutely have to be a physical one. What about writing a book, starting a blog, reading the whole Bible or starting a Life Group? Just let me encourage you – give yourself a positive test!

Before I became a preacher, I went to a conference for health club types (of which I was one for about 18 years) and heard a keynote speech by Frank Dick, who used to head up GB athletics. He talked about mountain people and valley people (no prizes for guessing which he thought was best!) and I remember he used this one-liner: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room!”

It was a really great talk and it mesmerised me – I’d never really heard anything quite like it! I remember going to speak to him briefly afterwards and being awed by what he’d done. Imagine! Speaking to a room full of people like that! Why, I could never do that… could I?”

Well, I had no clue at the time that I’d become a preacher and I’ll leave it to others to judge how well I do at that. But I can tell you I was utterly rubbish at public speaking back then and while I like to think that I’ve got a bit better since, there’s no doubt that giving it my best shot has been and remains incredibly challenging and fulfilling!

May God richly bless you in all your endeavours – and may He line you up with a truly positive test of your own very soon!



Simon Lace, 28/04/2022