Taking Lessons

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 4, 2019 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

In the past year, God has opened a door for me to coach in the sport of fencing. Two years ago, I got my coaching credentials at a seminar. Now, as both a certified coach and referee, I am a formal coach at a local fencing club, Salle De Long. I started this sport over 20 years ago (including a 4-year layoff where I had to stop for a while due to time and finances), and while I never was the best fencer on the strip, I had a heart like few others had. But I also had a problem. I was reluctant to take individual lessons with the coaches when I had the opportunity. Looking back, I regret taking advantage of that opportunity.

Most of those 20 years of fencing was primarily through the twice-a-month tournaments. I didn’t practice on a regular basis because of financial and transportation issues. Then when I was in college and the captain of the fencing team for 5 years, I did get to practice twice a week, but I would spend most of that time just sparring with those present and doing what I knew I could do. Then in tournaments, I had good days and bad days. I have won three tournaments total in my life, but two were early on as “unrated” tournaments. Those were basically for beginners and in each one I came back from dead last in the seeding to win the whole thing. The third was a collegiate team tournament in which I had strong teammates who helped. I have never won an “open” tournament that anyone can sign up for, though in November, I came within one touch of taking gold.

As I have been assisting in coaching this past year, I have learned so much about the sport that I never really knew. I knew all the rules and all the core basics, however, what I have learned in this last year is much more than facts. I am smarter on the strip than I have ever been, despite having lost much of the endurance I used to have. Even with the endurance loss, I have found I am able to push through the “wall” longer than I ever had in the past, where I would start getting tired and my body would just shut down. Not anymore. Now, looking back, I see why my skills never did reach where they could have because I did not take the training and practice seriously, especially in regards to individual lessons.

Why am I bringing all this up? I have begun to see a connection between my fencing experiences and my spiritual walk. The relationship between a fencer and his coach gives a good, though incomplete, image of the relationship between a Christian and Christ. As a fencer, my job is to prepare for tournaments, to practice a set of skills to put on display, to be ready to face the skills of an opponent, and when it is finished to still be able to stand in the end. As a coach, my job is to prepare a fencer for those tournaments. I need to teach skills that emphasize strengths they have, tactics to compensate for weaknesses, strategies to defeat opponents’ skills, and the encouragement to press forward even when things are not going well.

On the spiritual side, my job as a Christian is to prepare myself for tasks God has for me to do. I need to practice using the skill set I have been given, be ready to face opposition the enemy throws at me, and in the end, remain standing when the battles have been won. God’s job as my “coach” is get me in position to do the jobs he wants me to do, to equip me, to train me, and when I am ready, to send me out into the battle field.

Fencing coaches use several techniques to teach their students. There are two primary methods: group lessons and individual lessons. In group lessons, all the fencers work with partners and the coach in drills on one particular skill. These are geared towards the large group as a whole. The individual lesson is perhaps the most valuable training tool for any fencer, as the coach prepares a lesson that caters to the specific needs of each fencer. I had seen these in action prior to this past year and participated in them, however, they were not part of my regular routine in practice prior to tournaments. Most of the time, I would just spar with opponents using what I learned through sparring. Even though I had the opportunities to take individual lessons with my coaches at the time, I was often reluctant to even consider them. As a result, looking back, my skills have not been where they should be for the time frame I have been in the sport.

In Christianity, there are two primary ways to grow in Christ: large/small group settings and personal quiet time with God. Attending church on Sundays, being part of a Bible study group, and fellowshipping with other believers is important and very necessary for a believer. There is much to learn from being with other believers, listening to solid sermons, teaching and receiving, and simply being in relationship with others. However, the individual lesson is when a Christian truly strengthens himself by working one-on-one with the Holy Spirit. It is that time of prayer and studying the Bible which gives the Christian his power and his strength.

Why was Jesus able to do what he did? As I’ve read the Gospels, nearly every time Jesus did a major miracle or made a decision (such as choosing his disciples), it was after he had spent at least part of the night in prayer and he would not stop praying until he received the answer he needed. What about David? While he trained for Goliath with a lion and a bear, he also spent a lot of “down time” communing with God on his harp. Many of his Psalms were written while on the run from Saul and Absalom, and they are a result of years of constantly seeking and communing with God alone. Moses had his lessons in the back side of the desert after being raised to be a leader in Egypt. It took him 80 years to be ready for God to use him. These men were able to do what they did because they spent time with their God, learning from him alone and individually.

There is one key difference between the fencer/coach to Christian/Holy Spirit relationship: on the fencing strip, the fencer is alone and it is up to him to do the job. The coach can only advise from a distance and during breaks. In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is not only directly with you the whole time, he actually is doing the real work. We are just in for the ride, being the vessel used by God for the task. But this does not excuse us from needing to practice. The muscles which move our body are akin to how we move the body of Christ. Muscles need training and work to get stronger and more solid, or the body is not capable of doing bigger tasks. The same is true with us. God cannot use us unless we are trained for the job. And if he cannot use us, he will move on to someone he can.

Take lessons from God. Train and prepare your mind and body to do what God needs to be done. Every task God gives us is for a purpose. Sometimes it is to train us for a later task or it is part of the primary task God has for us, but all of it is for the glory of God. It’s worth it. Next week, I’ll look at another aspect of fencing: my role as an assistant coach in relation to my head coach.

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