(borrowed picture of this kid doing the butterfly– his form is better than mine no doubt… read on)
“COME ON BRIAN,” Dillon the lifeguard joyfully yelled, “200 METERS BUTTERFLY!”
“That’s what I need,” I thought, “A coach.”
200 meters would be four laps, not impossible except it feels like it in the fly.
So I swam almost one lap and nearly was dying!
“Only three more to go,” Dillon laughed.
I tried, but realized as I felt more and more like I was drowning not swimming, that this needs to be my goal this year, not this day. Butterfly is my hardest and most favorite stroke. It is exhausting. I cannot keep it up over the distance. It vigorously uses the whole body.
In life we need coaches. People who come alongside and yell encouragement. People who help us “keep going” when we want to quit.
Do you have things that make you want to quit?
Those things are everywhere.
One of the things for me has been empty chairs in worship. Strange, you know. For there need to be empty seats, stats tell us, for people need space to feel comfortable worshiping. But still numbers of empty chairs have been my nemesis. It is like a narrative of failure is tied to empty chairs and a narrative of success tied to full ones.
And every week when there are empty chairs, someone will say aloud what I had thought, “Where is everybody?”
Of course — really we all know — sporting events, emergency situations, illnesses, holidays, good or foul weather, etc all hinder the ability to enter community and get to worship. But really it is not about how many seats are not filled. What matters is what seats are filled.
Jesus, my Sunday coach, spoke over me one week when I lamented in prayer to Him that there were not many people there, saying, “Child, look at all the leaders that I have raised up!” That got my attention. I swam stronger that week.
And another week, when I lamented the empty seat factor to another person, they wrote asking what had Jesus been working on in my own life? Basically saying, “Don’t lament, instead go talk to the coach.”
On January 24th Jesus helped me discover this firsthand. I came to church to worship not lead that week, and the same number of people were there as other weeks when I have preached. But it didn’t bother me. In fact, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the power of worship, the message, the connection with people around me who were there. That’s what mattered, and I left immensely refreshed.
As I experience this Camino preparation year, I am realizing that I am already walking a path with Jesus. One part of the journey is the healing Jesus my coach wants to work in my heart by getting me to swim the lengths of life ignoring empty chairs and paying attention to full ones.
To you this may seem trivial — “Come on, Shimer!” But really, one person’s pebble is another’s boulder. And apparently this is one boulder in my own soul my coach, Jesus, is working on.
In life often the stuff that is most challenging to us, the stuff that hurts, the stuff that makes us question our value, or makes us want to quit, is the very core of where God is working.
As we walk this preparation year, I hope you are looking for those places in your own life and listening for your coach to call out and encourage you to press on past the obstacles toward the goal of the healing God has for us. Life is not about empty chairs, really, but about full ones.