Gymnastics

Gymnastics
I learned a new lesson in humility this week.

When I was twelve years old, 4 out of 5 Knetsch kids started a 10-week program in gymnastics offered once per week by Ole Pederson in my hometown. The decision my mom made to place us in that little program changed our lives. Practices quickly went from 1 day a week to 3 or 4. I eventually competed at the provincial level and coached for years. My parent’s basement turned into a gym with rings hanging from the ceiling with a homemade pommel horse. Gymnastics was a huge part of my life; however, my journey with gymnastics ended when I was 19.

In Holly Springs there is a competitive gymnastics club called
Sonshine Gymnastics, and I have applied for a part-time job to continue coaching 14 years later. For two hours this past Tuesday evening, my job was to shadow coaches already working there to see if I have the ability to connect with kids. It was like a two-hour job interview as I felt eyes watching me from all different directions. Coaches, kids, parents were scrutinizing my every move.

The head coach asked me to shadow three different female coaches working with 6-8 year old girls. I politely introduced myself to these three high school teens during the 15 minute warm up: “Hi! My name is Mark and I’ve been asked to shadow you and to watch how you coach.” Two of the students are seniors who are getting ready to enter college. The other student will continue high school. I asked them if they had ever participated in gymnastics. The reply was, “Nope. I just applied a few years ago and got the job. I love it!”

During warm up, I introduced myself to the other coaches. I asked the only teenage male coach if he’s still in school.

“Yup,” he says, “I go to Holly Springs High.”
“Oh yeah? You enjoy it?”
“Sure. I just ran for student body president, but I didn’t get it.”
“Bummer, man. I would have voted for you!”
“I don’t think so. You look like you’re well out of high school. How old are you anyway?”
“Thirty-three.”
“No way,” he replies.
“How old do I look?”
“Boy, I would have thought 24-25.” I immediately liked this kid (grin)!

So as I metaphorically sit at the feet of these teenagers, I gulp my pride and simply enjoy the simplicity of sport. I encourage one little girl to point her toes, and another to keep her legs straight doing a pull-up on the bar. It was a “blast from the past” and a blast altogether. Fortunately, after further conversation with the head coach, I was encouraged that I made a good impression. I was offered the job of working a couple of shifts throughout the week, starting in mid-August. The head coach is aware of my intentions of starting a new church, and as a Christian herself (hence,
Sonshine Gymnastics), she is excited to have an experienced male coach available during working hours and evenings.

This contact with the gym is an indescribable opportunity for church planting! Hundreds, if not thousands, of kids use this facility annually. Parents fix their eagle eyes on their future own little Nadia Com─âneci as she learns a cartwheel. It’s an immediate venue for me to begin making connections in the Holly Springs community.

But let’s focus on the purpose of my blog: humility. Humility often feels like embarrassment. Man, did I ever stick out standing with those teens! But as odd as it looked and felt, it was also an invigorating experience. My love for ministry with kids and teens was reignited. To learn from
them--especially after teaching and mentoring them for the past 6.5 years in Hamilton--taught me that church planting is a daily dying to self, and rising with Christ. It was an honor and privilege to sit at the feet of those young people. They may not have been gymnasts, but I can still learn from their coaching techniques and their buy-in to the vision of this gymnastics club.

What I continue to learn is that to be like Christ is to give up oneself for the sake of the Gospel. As Philippians 2 teaches us, Christ did not consider equality with God something to hold on to, but made himself nothing and took on the position of a servant. That model, my friends, is how God became flesh. As a member of the Body of Christ in 2013, I am called to model that level of humility as well. It is tough though, isn’t it? As challenging as it is, how are you modelling the incarnation in your life? How have you learned humility, and in what ways have you praised God for that lesson of humility?