Life Change

Training vs Trying

Here is a blog post from my wife Dora based on her experience at the MidWinter conference this past January. Enjoy!

What I am about to share with you is not an idea I thought of myself. In fact, based on what I can find about its origin, it’s an idea that has been around for quite some time. The reason I am writing about it now, is because if it is something that I missed out on for so long, maybe there are others out there who have missed it as well, and would find it as enlightening as I do.

First, let’s start with a couple of definitions (and examples):

Try (verb): to make an effort to do something; to attempt to accomplish or complete something; to do or use (something) in order to see if it works or will be successful, to do or use (something) in order to find out if you like it.

Examples: you try bowling, painting, riding a bike, eating spicy food, etc.

Train (intransitive verb): to direct the growth of (a plant) usually by bending, pruning, and tying; to form by instruction, discipline, or drill; to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient; to make prepared (as by exercise) for a test of skill; to aim at an object or objective.

Examples: you train to run a marathon, you train for your profession, you train for taking a driver’s license test.

So it would appear that the difference between trying something and training for something is that you “try” something you think you might like or be good at to see if you actually do like it or might be good at it, but you “train” for something you want to be good at or you want to accomplish. “Trying” is more of a one (or two) time effort, while “training” is an ongoing process.

Why am I making such a big deal out of the differences between these two words/ideas? Because I hear so many people (myself included) who say they are trying to be better people, trying to be better parents, trying to be better friends, trying to be better spouses, trying to be better Christians. And, while all those things are admirable things to strive for, I think they are goals that deserve far more effort than a “try”.

The amount of energy a person puts into “trying” something is going to be much less than the amount of energy someone puts into “training” for something. If I want to try NASCAR racing (which is NEVER going to happen, but stay with me here) I might go out and get the best car, make sure the gas tank is full and all my safety equipment is in working order, and then show up at the starting line to race (again, not going to happen) my best. The chances of me finishing even one lap though are pretty small. Why? I’m just trying to race. I haven’t put my full energy into the endeavor, or taken the time to learn anything about driving in a NASCAR race.

Now had I trained to be in a NASCAR race, I would have probably done the things above, but I also would have found someone to teach me the ins and outs of driving in a race, I would have practiced driving at the necessary speeds in different weather conditions, I would have found the best pit crew and worked with them to understand how my car performs at high speeds. And I would have started out gradually, building up my skills and understanding over time. I would have good training days, and bad training days, but I would keep on training day after day so that there were more good days than bad days.

This is the same way it is with training to be a follower of Christ. The original twelve disciples didn’t just try to be followers of Jesus, they trained at it. Jesus didn’t just gather them together and then tell them to go out and spread His word. Day after day, month after month, they learned new lessons from Jesus. Lessons of love, forgiveness, faith, and trust. And they didn’t have just good days during this training. To name a few:

  • Peter’s experience walking on the water. (Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24)
  • Thomas’s experience of doubting the resurrection. (John 20:24-29)
  • James’, John’s & Peter’s inability to stay awake while Jesus prayed in Gethsemane)
  • Arguing about who would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. (Matthew 18:1-4; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48)
  • Telling a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name to stop doing so. (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50)

But even with these “bad” days, they continued training to be messengers of God’s word. Of His forgiveness. Of His Grace. And just like the disciples, we are all called to be messengers of God’s amazing love and grace. While we don’t get to have the awesome experience of having Jesus as our own personal trainer in the same way the disciples did, we still have the opportunity to train with Him to be better messengers of His word. To me this means spending more time reading the training manual (in other words, the Bible), looking at others who are further along in their training and learning from them (both successes and failures), finding and using other resources (such as blogs, bible studies, commentaries, etc.) to stretch & grow my knowledge and understanding (not just of the Bible, but of people), putting myself in positions that help others (even if there is no “benefit” to me).

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly going to stop trying to fill this call, but instead I’ll be training for it. I know that there will be bad days. In fact, there will be miserable days of training when I will just wish I would have stayed in bed and will wonder how Jesus could ever use me to shine His light. On those days I hope someone will remind me that training is hard, and messy, and draining. I also hope that they will remind me that those days are going to be the days I grow and learn the most.

Can You Finish Strong?

Earlier this week, Pastor Mark, his cousin Todd, Andrew and I all went to an event called “Pins for Pastors”. It was a day of bowling and fellowship that was sponsored by a national broadcasting company.

But I have to be honest: I am a terrible bowler. When I bowl (which is not very often), my score is usually around a 90. During the Pins for Pastors event this week, I started out with a few good frames, but I quickly slid back into my usual results. Towards the end, I was knocking down only one pin at a time or throwing a complete gutter ball.

We bowled three full games and by the time the final frame came around, I just wanted it to be over. But I also wanted to give it my best effort, even though at the end, it wouldn’t really make a difference.

So I relaxed, addressed the lane, stepped forward, and swung the ball.

Strike.

And again.

Strike.

And again.

Strike.

I was in shock; I had never bowled three strikes in a row in my entire life.

I was very lucky in that last frame, but putting my luck aside, those three strikes helped me realize something: it did matter how I finished the game. We can always finish strong, no matter what has happened in the past. The end is so important because how we reach the finish line, in many ways, is the part that counts.

We can finish strong in a marriage that has not been everything it could have been.

We can finish strong in relationships that have been neglected.

We can finish strong in a job or a ministry that has not reached its full potential.

We can finish strong in faith even though we have been distant from God.

We can finish strong in a life that has not been fully lived.

We can finish strong.

90 Day Challenge

I have been blessed to have a membership at LIFETIME FITNESS for nearly twenty years.  During these years I have watched newer members come and make commitments to a fitness routine and even participate in the so-called “90 Day Challenge”.  Being an exercise nut that I am, I decided to give it a shot this year.  Besides, I have often wished I could be on that great TV show, Biggest Loser!  This would be the closest thing to doing that.

One of the benefits of being in this Challenge is the weekly specials.  Today it was a Nutrition Seminar.  The instructor made it very clear that the goal was not to have to have any of us students come back next year to participate in the Challenge because we have made the lifestyle changes (particularly in the eating department) as a permanent part of our lives.

I often wonder what it would be like for me to have finally learned some lifestyle changes in my spiritual life that I would not have to come back, year after year, to the same issues.  Can I finally give over to God some of the bad habits?  Can I allow Him to work through me so that I don’t rely on me as the power-source?  Will others finally see in me some of the fruit of the Spirit that I have longed for?

This life that we live is indeed a process.  I thank God daily for being patient with me as He works on me.  “But now, O Lord, You are the Father, we are the clay, and you our Potter, and all we are the work of your hand” Isa 64:8.