why I WANT to go to the ‘Y’


The Missoula YMCA


for me, exercising has historically been like taking your vitamins.

it’s something you do because you HAVE to.

because it’s GOOD for you.

for years, i’ve hardly taken vitamins. and i’ve hardly ever exercised (beyond getting in a good bash on my drum kit, body surfing some decent waves, or jumping up and down when the Giants win the World Series or the Lakers win another championship…and the fact that I’m not in a band, I live in Montana, and my teams might win it all once every 2-3 years at best gives you an idea of how often that ‘exercise’ happens).

but then, i look at people who regularly populate fitness clubs, and i ask myself, ‘do ANY of these people look like they’re enjoying themselves?’

the people on the rowing machines might as well be captives on a Viking ship.

Feel the burn!

those subjecting themselves to a spin class appear to be getting themselves ready for the cycling version of ‘Death Race 2000’.

Spinning class

and the poor people on the treadmills (yours truly very occasionally included) seem to be huffing and puffing away on a ‘road to nowhere’. i’m just waiting for someone someday to be trapped on one and yell out, ‘JANE! STOP THIS CRAZY THING! JANE! JAAAAAAAAANE!!!’


(okay, i just lost my under-40 audience with those last paragraphs. NOTE for ALL under-40-years-of-age readers (all THREE of you): Google ‘death race 2000’ and ‘the jetsons closing credits’ and you’ll be up to speed.)

i know that there are many elements of life that are ‘good medicine’ for our health and necessary opportunities/obligations to provide for our wealth (at least enough to keep us somewhat warm and semi-well fed). i guess that in the midst of it all (expounding on the title of the song from one of the most auspiciously articulate and artistic musical entities of the 70s/80s), i wonder…where has all the exhilaration, the invigoration, the outrageous and orgasmic celebration of the glorious adventure of life gone?

(under-40s crowd: Google ‘van halen where have all the good times gone’ and you’re good to go.)


in a world where there are so many ‘good medicines’ out there, i wonder about the ways that we struggle to experience the parts of life that are more than just ‘medicine’.

like magnificence and mystery.

like jubilation and joy.

like glory and grace.

and then i think of my eldest son, Ian.

Brian's oldest son, Ian

by the standards of human society, Ian is a person with the ‘dis-ability’ of autism, and therefore, categorized as a young man with ‘special needs’.

but by the standards of human specialness and spirit, Ian has been blessed with the ‘ability’ to perceive and engage life on a much simpler, yet incredibly profound level. and therefore, those of us who know him well would categorize him as a person with ‘special gifts’.

each morning, Ian prances about the house after breakfast, grinning and dancing and patiently waiting to go catch the Mountain Line bus to go to the local YMCA. some days, i meet him there (since he wants to ride the bus ‘by myself’).

and to answer my rhetorical question from above – ‘does ANYONE look like they’re having FUN whilst working out?’ – i can say that i know at least ONE person who does. and he’s dancing and prancing around my living room this very instant.

Ian on the treadmill at the YMCA in Missoula.

while i join the throngs of huffers and puffers suffering on the treadmill, Ian hops onto the treadmill next to me, sets the speed to whatever level i have mine set (SLOW), and starts walking…and then speeds it up when i start running.

while i’m trying to keep some sense of sanity and interest by blasting my favourite propulsive and percussive music through my earbuds, my face alternating between looking straight out the window in front me and checking the timer below to see how much longer i must endure the torture, i always hear these silly and joyful little sounds coming from the treadmill next to me.

and whenever i look over, there’s Ian, staring right at me and laughing his head off.

He does make it look fun, no?

while i’m diligently tracking my pace and distance, Ian is grabbing the handlebars and lifting his feet off of the conveyor belt, then placing them on the sides and watching the belt whirr and spin as he keeps adjusting the speed up and down, getting special satisfaction when it goes ‘FAST FAST FAST!’

and several times during my suffering, he will reach out his hand to mine in the motion of a ‘high five’. but when our hands meet, he will grab my hand and our fingers will interlock, and a BIG grin will light up his face with a reflection of the Glory and Grace and Love that fires the sun and ignites the cosmos.

when i’m with Ian, and experience his unique and special way of embodying the radiance of that Love, i am reminded that we have been created to engage life not as stressed-out, shame-ridden creatures victimized by our dis-appointments and limited by our dis-abilities, but rather, as imperfect, glory-revealing, grace-giving children of the One who embraces life and all of us trying to live it with blessedness and belovedness, wholeness and holiness.

with magnificence and mystery.

with jubilation and joy.

and with gut-busting, grace-giving, uproarious and glorious GIGGLING.

and in those moments, i realize that i don’t HAVE to go to the ‘Y’.

i WANT to.


To see more of Brian’s writing, check out the Brian Marsh main page here at Make it Missoula. And for even more, check out his personal blog, Apocalypso Now.


i’m a wanderer and a wonderer. a pastor who isn’t sure he’d attend church if he wasn’t pastoring one (and currently, i’m not), living with my unique and special family (my wife, Kirsten, and sons, Ian and Trevor) in a unique and beautiful place (Missoula, Montana). restless and lazy, usually amazed, always in process, i’m continually surprised and usually delighted at discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular’, the shafts of light that sneak into the shrouds of darkness. i drum decently, surf poorly, love multicultural food, music, and community, and living in the ‘Zoo.