Friday, May 05, 2006

Training Partners

Over the last months I’ve been thinking about the concept of training versus trying. Last fall I attended a Renovare conference that raised the issue. I hadn’t thought about it for a while, though I did do a small group study on it several years ago. Moving beyond the obvious – you don’t show up at the start of the Boston Marathon having never run and just “try harder” than the rest of the runners. Those kind of goals require discipline, a building up toward goals, and reordering of priorities. In terms of spiritual training, the obvious application is to the spiritual disciplines, setting spiritual goals and examining every aspect of your life to set things in the direction of those goals.

This morning I was thinking about a new aspect. It comes from the intersection of these thoughts and recent discussions on community. Training partners. Many years ago I had the chance to work closely with professional training athletes and something I learned was the importance of having real training partners. You could choose to train with people that are obviously not much competition, but when you get to a real competition you’re not very well prepared. By surrounding yourself with people who can push you on toward your goals and you can learn from you create a good environment for training. In addition, if you can build accountability into this group you’re giving yourself another advantage. The athletes I worked with trained together all day. They ate together, worked out together and often hung out together. They knew what the others were eating, they provided someone around who understood what their life was like and who could give them that little push (or hug) on a down day.

I think this has important implications on spiritual training. It’s one thing to download and listen to good teaching, read scripture and pray on your own, but totally isolating yourself (or purposely avoiding close relationships that could push or challenge you) is setting yourself up for failure. I have great faith that if I’m ever in a situation where I have no access to a church or a spiritual community God will give me the strength and faith I need to survive, but that’s a pretty extreme (and unusual) circumstance. We are meant to do life in community. God created us to need training partners. People who know you well enough to know your weaknesses and who love you enough to keep pushing when you want to give up.

Don’t mean to be simplistic about this. I know being that close to other people is a messy business. It’s easier to keep nice walls around you and only exist in a social community, but that would be a huge loss. This isn’t about just showing up and trying – it’s about training. A deliberate choice to be vulnerable because the risk is more than worth the reward. What if you and a friend were both training for a marathon and you just met for coffee once a week and never discussed running? Doesn’t make much sense. Why not run together and share the journey.

More later on this thought later...

1 Comments:

Blogger Storkbryght said...

"What if you and a friend were both training for a marathon and you just met for coffee once a week and never discussed running?"

Nice. Quotable.

Amen, preach it sister!

3:32 PM  

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