My daughter has always been a little gymnast. She is built like one, even, with a very stout, muscular body. She has always loved to flip and bend in many contorted ways the body does not naturally bend, and has even been known to absentmindedly stand next to the table with a leg stretched out at a ninety degree angle, foot propped next to her plate while eating. Very unbecoming, but still, very endearing. This year, like a wish granted, we enrolled her in a gymnastics class, and lucky gal that she is, she was placed in a class of girls who’ve been doing it for a while. Thankfully, she was able to stay on the same page as the rest of them. She already had a lot of the basics down. A month and a half in, they are working on back hand springs. Just so you know, I would call this a backflip, but apparently, when you use your hands, it’s a back hand spring. I’m slowly learning jargon here.
Yesterday, after practice, we came home and she wanted me to help her practice. In other words, to spot her. That’s where I (knowing only what I’ve seen done by her instructors) place my hands very strategically, one behind her back and one under her left thigh, to help her feel comfortable enough to do it. Except from the get-go, she was nervous because a.) we have hard-wood floors and b.) I admittedly am doing this with very little knowledge of how this actually helps her get better.
By my understanding, once someone has acquired a skill, you fade the help until they are doing it completely on their own. She did it at practice on her own, so why did she all the sudden need help? I knew what was going to happen: she has a nasty habit of speaking down to herself and saying, “I can’t” after she has already proven that she can, and wiping a skill completely out of her mind by convincing herself that she’s incapable. She has done this with every skill she’s learned in every sport she’s ever done. She, of course, eventually picks it up again, but not after a whole lot of beating herself up.
So we began: She backed herself up against my outstretched arm and waited until my other hand was in place. She then gave a weak jump, went backward and left all the weight of her jump in my hands. I grabbed her thigh tightly and flipped her all the way over to keep her from falling on her head. She stood up shakily and I asked, “What happened? You didn’t even try!” She was upset and said, “Well, I was so scared! I didn’t want to get hurt.” I replied, “But you’ve already done it before! You know how to do this! Don’t look to me to do it for you, don’t leave your weight in my hands. Use your muscles and finish the flip. It’s in you!”
That was yesterday. Today, this whole scene played over and over in my mind because I see so many parallels in it: this is so like us.
First, there’s the training. Just you and Him, going through the strategies and the motions over and over as His Spirit seeks to teach you something. All the while you are building up your “muscles” and just allowing the movements to become fluid, another part of who you are and what is in you. Then, He begins to require you to take on more of the responsibility of your success. He keeps His hands steady but urges you to be more steady and sure of your ability. And finally, when He is sure that you have got it down pat, He steps back and watches you do it, rejoicing in your ability. But, like my daughter, we doubt ourselves. And even if we’ve done it with the Lord spotting us and watching closely, we still doubt we’ve really got it down when He steps back and says, “Show me what you can do!”
I think maybe God wants us to trust that we know what He wants and that He’s worked with us to the point that we are capable of doing it. Psalm 32:9 says, “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.” This verse comes to me often when I pray about the things the Lord lays on my heart. He says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it. (Is. 30:21)” He promises to be directing our path, but sometimes, He asks that we be willing to walk forward without being pulled. To trust that He is with us, telling us which path to take as we walk. He can’t steer us if we aren’t moving, though, right?
I also find that in my own walk, the times of intense training do seem to be very lonely. It’s like, He wants us to be fully attentive to what He is trying to teach us. He’s building something in us and He doesn’t want us to be distracted by others, or to miss out on the time with Him because we are too busy doing other things to be with Him. Of course, that is not to say that the Lord can’t teach us if we aren’t isolated. Just that many times, when we feel the loneliest, we can be sure that if we look up to Him and ask what He is doing, He is sure to be working at that very moment on something in us, and He is awesome enough to tell us what it is so we can cooperate with Him, when we ask. I don’t particularly like this training time sometimes. I am more like the kid who knows there’s something else going on outside that isn’t “learning,” and I sit daydreaming while He talks. Father, I’m so sorry. Please captivate me to what you are teaching me and help me to stay focused. I really do want to be able to walk wholeheartedly with you, sure of your Spirit in me, confident that when it is all said and done, You have equipped me for the calling you have placed on my life. I look forward to serving you always. Love, Dawn