Practice Makes Perfect
Today was one of those days that as soon as I my feet hit the ground I knew it was going to be a day filled with challenges and demands and that I would be stretched. Unfortunately, I was dead on, It was a demanding day filled with governmental agency opposition that seemed bigger than life followed by a series of those irritating little things that get blown out of proportion in the midst of the chaos. Was it a day that was so unordinary that I should have anticipated what I was in for and girded myself up to face it head on? Probably, but I didn't so I endured the consequences. I asked myself, how many times do I have to learn this lesson?
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
As often is the case, the trigger that set me off was not some catastrophic event, instead it was a minor annoying auto repair that I lacked the tolerance to overcome successfully. The result was a dramatic overreaction to what the circumstance warranted. My first real casualty of the day, The issue wasn't the cumulative effect of a challenging day it was that the enemy exploited a personal weakness of mine and took me to the mat with it. The stress of the entire day was overshadowed by my overreaction which was immediately followed by a wave of personal condemnation. shame and guilt, The enemy's favorite weapons against us.
Romans 7:15-25 - NLT
15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.
17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.
22 I love God’s law with all my heart.
23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
After a gracious attempt by my wife to help me deflect the guilt I was experiencing, I elected to go to the gym where I hoped a workout would redirect my self-induced mental lashing. During my brief ride there I was deep into my personal wallowing and bemoaning of my day. As I approached a final turn to my destination I was stopped at an intersection awaiting a young man I see regularly in the gym giving it his all. His all is not as you would imagine. You see, this young man, who is every bit of 20 years my junior, walks with a cane and struggles to take each small stride forward due to an advanced stage of MS or some similar debilitating illness. There I sat for what seemed like minutes watching as he struggled to cross the street while breaking into a full sweat. PERSPECTIVE is what the Lord graciously illustrated to me. I heard Him say "sure your day was tough but put it into perspective to what this young man endures everyday". His word wasn't a rebuke, it was a turning of my head to see things in a different perspective. It was a reminder that we aren't perfect and as my wife said "you are making great progress so give yourself some room to make mistakes" as internally the tape played in my head "room for mistakes, that is for the weak" and I will have nothing to do with that.
As I was working out I reflected back to my youth where most of my time was filled with sports and athletics. I remembered the months and years of practicing hockey in 10-20 degrees below zero temperatures. I remembered my high school football coach barking out commands as he wacked us on the helmets with his clipboard when we screwed up. It was practice, practice, practice. Each day we were pushed and stretched in order to improve and grow. Why was it acceptable to myself to make allowances for errors in one part of my life but where it truly matters the most I give myself no room for error? What I have learned is that skills are developed through practice and the circumstances of life we face are practice sessions to help us grow and improve. We need to give ourselves latitude to make mistakes and have setback days. Progress is not directly linear in anything. Growth is a bumpy ride filled with ups and downs with an upward trajectory over time. No matter the circumstance, even with all the practice there are those days, like today, where in the game of life you seem to screw up, miss a shot, blow a tackle or simply double fault on a set point. Does a single bad play or bad day mean all the practice has been meaningless, absolutely not. As men we have to learn to pick ourselves up, shake off the dust and get back in the game. We can not afford to be sidelined because our team, that being our wives, families, co-workers, and friends need and depend on us.
A few weeks ago as I was writing New Year New Me I was reminded of an exercise we did in high school and college football. The exercise was called a "stop route" and was designed to help us learn to change directions quickly in order to break away from a defender (or an enemy) that was breathing down our neck. To do so. you simply plant your lead foot, stop the direction you are heading in and pivot to change direction and then keep moving. As men of god there are times we need to do a "stop route" in life. For me the 2nd half of 2018 was a series of stop routes where over and over again I planted my foot that was leading me in a direction I no longer wanted to continue in, I then pivoted and changed direction. Today the enemy wanted me to throw in the towel and have me take the bench. Does a single day like today invalidate all the practice I have done over the last year of personal breakthrough and growth? The enemy would like me to think so and honestly not long ago I would have. By days end, I admittedly felt beat up similar to that of a tough day of practice. I probably didn't grow my personal skills much today but I am back in the game and will be at practice again tomorrow. Does practice make you perfect? Maybe not, but it always makes you better.
1 Timothy 4:8-16
8 Train yourself in godliness. Exercise for the body is not useless, but godliness is useful in every respect, possessing, as it does, the promise of Life now and of the Life which is soon coming.
9 Faithful is this saying and deserving of universal acceptance:
10 and here is the motive of our toiling and wrestling, because we have our hopes fixed on the ever-living God, who is the Saviour of all mankind, and especially of believers.
11 Command this and teach this.
12 Let no one think slightingly of you because you are a young man; but in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, be an example for your fellow Christians to imitate.
13 Till I come, bestow your attention on reading, exhortation and teaching.
14 Do not be careless about the gifts with which you are endowed, which were conferred on you through a divine revelation when the hands of the elders were placed upon you.
15 Habitually practice these duties, and be absorbed in them; so that your growing proficiency in them may be evident to all.
16 Be on your guard as to yourself and your teaching. Persevere in these things; for by doing this you will make certain your own salvation and that of your hearers.
I wrote this blog in direct opposition to the enemy and to demonstrate to myself that I am not the same "old man" I use to be, I am not going to eat dirt any longer. Today is a new day, its "game on" I planted my lead foot again and changed direction.
God has made us men. He has made you strong, able to take a hit, stand against the tide that pounds you and to get back on your feet when you have been knocked to the ground. If you don't like the direction you are heading in plant that lead foot, pivot and continue in a new direction. You can do it.