Updated: May 5, 2020
If you know me personally, you know I have a hobby- figure skating. Ever since I was three years old I knew I wanted to be a figure skater. I sat with my mom in the basement of our home, oyster crackers in hand, munching away as Tara Lipinski did a double axle across the tv screen. I was mesmerized. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out I couldn't take ice skating lessons due to the high costs involved and the lack of a rink near where we lived.
Fast forward to college, where I sat in my dorm room watching the World Figure Skating Championships on my laptop. A lot of time had passed, but my love for the graceful and technically challenging sport remained. I still didn't have any money or a rink near my college, but I did decide to invest in a pair of my very own figure skates.
Buying those skates was one of my favorite purchases I've ever made. It felt like I had waited my whole life to have my own pair of boots and blades. Although there was no rink near my school, my parents had relocated to a city that did have a skating arena. Every winter or spring break I was sneaking back home off to the ice, trying to learn all that I could from YouTube, watching other skaters, and also making connections with a few of the local coaches who were willing to give me pointers without the high-end skating lesson price tag.
Motivated by my love and determination to somehow become a skater, I spent hours on the ice practicing basic skills that I found online. Forward swizzles, backward crossovers, hockey stops, three-point turns, and a beautiful spiral were just a few of the skills I acquired due to perseverance. I would watch skating videos for hours and then practice during "public skating session" time. At those sessions, people who were desperately clinging to the boards watched my work in awe. They would often tell me I looked great or that I was a good skater. As their compliments grew, so did my ego... until I watched a video of myself skating. In horror, I realized that what I thought was beautiful edge work, effortless gliding, and poised arm movement was actually messy, sloppy, choppy skating. I looked nothing like the professional skaters or videos I had been watching.
I can't help but parallel my skating experience with my faith journey. Much like skating, I want to be good at living life. I see the things happening in society and I determine what is "upworthy" and what is "wrong". I know that it is not in anyone's best interest for me to steal, lie, or cheat. Because I understand the very basics of how a successful community ought to function, I start to feel pretty satisfied with myself. I feel like I am a pretty good person and I am leading a pretty wholesome lifestyle. Often, even the people around me will commend me for my positive choices and efforts.
It isn't until I start to read the Bible that I see how far in developing my character I have yet to go. The Bible holds the absolute standard for healthy, perfect living. When I see the characteristics and requirements upheld by God's Word, I become ashamed. I look over all my proudest moments in disgrace. I thought I had come so far... but it seems like it isn't enough! My hard work at being a good person has only just begun and I feel miserably discouraged. I see what I am supposed to be and I know I will never make it.
This month, for the very first time in my entire life, I signed up for group skating lessons. Not only did I enroll in a skating class, but I also began to meet with an experienced skate coach one-on-one. I bashfully showed her the skills I had been trying so hard to perfect on my own, knowing that they were nowhere near what they should be. I felt like I was giving her the broken pieces of my shattered childhood skate dreams, hoping by some miracle she could mend them. Imagine my surprise, when she told me how much talent she thought I had. Imagine my shock when after just 30 minutes of assistance, she significantly improved my skate posture and technique. In a single moment, she took skills I had been struggling with for months and made sense of them. Even if I never meet with her again, my skating technique will never be the same. She changed me for the better. This is the same experience we can have in our lives when we come to Jesus.
When we see our sinful state, we feel so ashamed. For so long we have tried to be a good person on our own. We look at all our failed efforts and mistakes. Slowly, we approach Jesus with the tattered pieces of our lives. We drop them in his outstretched hands, unable to look him in the eye. We are ready to hear his disapproval. We know he will think we are un-skilled and useless. Imagine our surprise when he tells us we are talented. Imagine our relief as he takes burdens we've tried to carry for so long, and gives us peace. Even if we never meet with Jesus again, our lives will never be the same. He changes us for the better.
This is the job of a coach- to share the knowledge, experience, and skill that they have attained with those who have yet to attain it. A good coach doesn't disgrace you for your lack of skill, but instead, they show you what you can be. They are able to look at the bits and pieces of your efforts and see the bigger picture. A good coach is relatable. They remember what it was like to be in your footsteps. They remember the mistakes, the failures, and the hard work it took to master their craft. A good coach is your support system. Although they can't do all the work for you, they can be by your side. Jesus is the perfect coach.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.