I am writing this as an encouragement, I hope people will feel motivated to put aside their pride, their inhibitions, their fear of what others think. Ministry has taught me a lot of things, I was first ordained three years ago, so this is still a new experience for me and giving me a much different perspective on life.
I understand we have our dignity, we have an expectation of how we want people to perceive us. On the other hand, I think that people deprive themselves of experiences, challenges, activities that may seem undignified, or out of their station, but in the long run helps them to grow and actually helps them to gain respect from others. One person told me at church that they realize they don’t sing well, but when they are in church they feel the Spirit moving them to sing out in celebration, one time a person sitting in front of them turned and looked at them during singing to make it plain they were less then impressed by their ability. As might be expected they felt less motivated to sing and stifled their enthusiasm. But since they’ve heard me, they’ve been encouraged to belt it out again. Hmmm, not sure how to take that. I had a pastor, a grand old pastor was a chaplain in Italy during World War II, a real Father Flanagan type, but the man could not carry a tune in a bucket. As pastors are wont to do during a hymn, if the congregation wasn’t up to speed, he would chime in. He did nothing to help with the melody, but he did help a great deal with helping those who were otherwise preoccupied with their dignity. He taught all of us, we’re not there for our dignity, we are there to make a joyous noise to the Lord. Sure we’d all like to sound like the Brooklyn Tabernacle, but you know what we’re going to sound like if we are more concerned with praising the Lord and not others opinion? We are going to sound like joyous Christians, lifting our Lord up in the praise that we should surely offer to Him.
I have pretty much spent my whole life not being terribly concerned with others opinions and even before I was a Christian I look back and see where the Lord has led me. Going back to my school years, I jumped into activities that no one gave me any encouragement for and I had no apparent talent for. I don’t regret any of them and they were great learning experiences. Children, and yes I mean anyone under at least 21 years of age, being the rather narrow minded, provincial and judgmental as they are (I know, that is so contrary to worldly opinion, but it’s so true, who of us would voluntarily go back and redo Junior High School, yea, I rest my case). Anyway, they made it plain how little they thought of my endeavors and made my life pretty difficult. I grew up in the same town that Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler grew up in, they are both world champion boxers, as you can imagine not a gentle place. But while the indignities of high school have faded, the endeavors have always had a warm spot in my soul.
Growing up I joined the Coast Guard reserve without any initial intention, had many great adventures that I’ve shared many times. I also started doing triathlons. Other than a very modest amount of talent in football, my athletic ability is lacking, most would describe it as non-existent. But I do like to compete, I like the way I feel after I’ve pushed myself, I like the confidence that it has helped me to develop. I’ve never done longer then International Distance Triathlons, and my first few I pretty much noddled my way through, but I’ve done 52 triathlons and have finished every one and never last. OK, that’s the highlights, my only real remaining goals are to do races in as many states, countries, as I can. Which I’ve actually got a shot at making a respectable dent in.
I had been consistently playing pickup basketball since pre-teen, The only good thing I can say, well to quote Monty Python “I got better”. But never anything approaching good. Despite that at the advanced age of 47, I decided to go out for my seminary’s basketball team. There were many who were not happy about me being there (there were many who were not happy about, again at my advanced age, being at seminary at all). I did go out, I did make it and I did get to play. We played teams up to division II NCAA teams. My only career field goal, was against a division II team. An isolated, but notable achievement. I went out for the bike club at seminary, let’s just say that didn’t go anywhere. But then I went out for cross-country, oh yeah, my physique on a cross-country team attracted some attention. But my team mates were great, always encouraging me, I believe we even won an event that I participated in. The other guys on the teams were really good cross-country runners and great Christian brothers and sisters.
Point is, God put us on this planet to live life. He gave me absolutely no talent, which to this day I still manage to survive with no discernable talent and even to thrive. He got me through seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity degree, and put me in a historic church with a really great group of brothers and sisters in Jesus. Don’t sell yourself short, if an old, ugly, fat guy like me, can, by the grace and strength of God, do the things I do into my mid-fifties, why would you who are probably much more talented sell yourself short? I’ve always known groups of people that really matter, these are the ones that do the things that really matter. Yes many of those people are Christians and they are led by the Holy Spirit to do great things for the Kingdom. These are often things that other people snicker at and wonder out loud, how can you do that? But those special kind of people who matter, they are there to encourage and join with you in your victories no matter how modest.
Being in the Coast Guard for 29 years, I had to stay in condition, first to maintain my weight and also to maintain the strength and stamina necessary to do what I did. I still maintain those habits and they serve me well in the ministry. I am able to encourage people, look it really doesn’t hurt to sing out or to join in. A “skill” I learned in the Coast Guard was kick-boxing, another skill that I share at church
It’s good for conditioning, weight management and building confidence and when it comes right down to it, we are God’s creation, our bodies are given to us by God. We are called to be stewards of all the things that God gives us and that certainly includes our bodies. We are called in faith to following the leading of the Holy Spirit. That might include things that might be considered unconventional, maybe it included singing, maybe it means getting involved in sports or in other people’s lives in sports. Maybe it includes serving the least of those, those in prison, those who are our neighbors and confront difficulties, those dealing with substance abuse problems, on and on. There will be people whose opinions you always respect, who’ve earned that respect. But for the most part you just don’t need to concern yourself with what other people think. God gives you a lot of opportunities to go way beyond the common, the ordinary. You might think doing a triathlon is stupid, for you, but start training, start watching your diet, read on how to do and what to do. Give it a chance, give yourself a chance to do things in your life. You owe it to you, to God who has given you the intelligence, the strength, stamina, health, fortitude to live above the common to the glory of God.
Despite my less than sparkling accomplishments, I still try to honor the Father by maintaining the body he gave me. I think I make a good witness to God by, at least trying to present the best physical appearance I can. I know that despite limitations, I can do things that are impressive and by doing that God encourages me to go farther for Him in the Kingdom.
Please, please, please don’t deprive yourself, no one may be impressed about your performance in a triathlon, but I will be, or basketball, or gourmet cooking, or child rearing, auto mechanics, ballroom dancing, cable stitching, but challenge yourself, push yourself, and honor God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the feats you accomplish to achieve for yourself and for the Kingdom and God bless you, please let me know what you ended up doing, I can’t wait to hear from you. By the way, my next goal is to do the Bermuda Triathlon, I really do stink, but if you’re interested in sponsoring me, let me know. Ya, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting, but hey, can’t blame me for trying.