I like to go to the gym. I’m not an athlete or a body builder but I use it as a therapy of sorts and to try to combat the “Dad-bod” thing that happens to all of us over 40 somethings. I have a workout partner named Ralph. Ralph is 64 and really keeps up pretty well. I think he started coming to the gym with me at first cuz he thought I might know what I’m doing. By now, he’s figured out I really probably don’t.
Ralph is actually my boss where I work so our dynamic is funny at the gym. He looks to me for direction. So, I’m the one standing over him screaming “Cmon give me one more rep you old fart, you can do it”, it’s great!! We have become pretty good friends the past couple of years and I’m grateful for him. Recently I was just thinking about our relationship and God spoke to me.
I have an issue that seems to be getting worse the older I get. I love to be alone, like all the time. I swear, I know it sounds crazy but I do. In fact it’s gotten so bad in recent years I actually get snippy and resentful with people who I think are invading my “alone time”. I look for opportunities to be alone all the time. See, I’m a creative-type and so for a long time I’ve just thought that this is part of my make up, my dna, how God made me. Although I believe that is partly true, as with all things, I have taken this to the extreme. A recent book I was reading by Carl Lentz said that “isolation breeds insanity.” To quote Gnarls Barkley, does that make me crazy?
One thing I’ve learned or am learning as a person in recovery is that relationships are crucial and vital to my recovery. We call it a network. In that network of like minded people we are “suggested” to get a sponsor. A sponsor is a person who serves as a guide. Since they are further down the road of recovery than you, then you ask them to help give you direction in life.
Here’s the parallel that God showed me at the gym the other day. He showed me at the gym we need a spotter to take us further than we thought we could go. A spotter is someone to help you attempt your lift. If you don’t know what I mean, next time you’re at the gym go ask someone to give you “a spot”. They will walk over to the exercise you’re about to attempt and take the “spotters position.” (It varies depending on the exercise)
The spotter will first of all make sure you’re safe above all things, that the weight you’re about to lift isn’t going to fall on your neck and kill you. A spotter will also help you correct your form so you’re actually working the right muscles and getting stronger. A spotter will also provide much needed encouragement in times of great distress. Just when you think you’ve done all you can and there’s not one more ounce of strength left in you, your spotter stands over you and screams, “Cmon you can do it, just one more”
A sponsor serves much the same role for those of us in recovery. Side note, I believe that we’re all in recovery for something. Most people immediately jump to drugs and alcohol when they think of recovery but many of the core issues that drive alcohol and drug abuse also fuel many other unhealthy behaviors whether it’s codependency or sexual-integrity, whatever it is, believe me there’s room on this boat for you. At Celebrate Recovery we like to joke with response to whatever issue anyone comes up with “What about(fill in the blank issue). “We have a group for that.”
Anyway, I believe this isn’t just a recovery thing, it’s a human thing. We were created to have these kind of relationships in our lives to help us grow, to help us when we get stuck or run out of steam. Some people refer this relationship as a mentor. But the idea is the same for a spotter, a sponsor or a mentor, they help you grow and do things you didn’t know that you could. I happen to have all 3 of these men in my life and I would hate to think where I would be without them. My spotter, Ralph, my sponsor, John and my mentor, Dave.
There’s a verse in Proverbs that says “as iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17(NLT) while it seems to be a profound truth it’s something I’ve wrestled with and still am not the best at but I’m learning to trust them all with various areas of my life and God uses them all, sometimes, ok, except my spotter Ralph fails me from time to time cuz he’s looking at his phone when he’s supposed to be spotting me but I’ve yet to die so we’re cool. Btw, there’s is not need to look at your phone after every set unless you’re expecting a baby or something, am I right?
Paul the apostle and his “sponsee” Timothy demonstrated this type relationship in the Bible. Paul took on Timothy and discipled him. He didn’t just explain to Timothy how to be a disciple. He said basically “you’ve seen the things I’ve done, now look at my life and follow the example.”(2 Timothy 3) Sometimes at the gym the job of the spotter has do get down on the bench and show how to do the exercise correctly.
Ok, so back to my issue with “alone time”. I was recently rereading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and I don’t remember what chapter it was but he started to nudge/encourage people who struggled with this very issue to really take a look at it and focus on just why we enjoy our “alone time.” It got me thinking and I decided that I was gonna try to do something different. Instead of protecting my precious alone time I decided I was going to give some of it away and engage other people with the time I was spending isolating.
So, one of the first experiences I had with this was at a Celebrate Recovery meeting. I help lead worship at CR and before every service we have a “green room” of sorts that we get to relax and eat in before the service starts. I like this set up because it sort of keeps me isolated from all the noise and what I would deem to be awkward and uncomfortable and maybe even unnecessary conversations and interactions with folks.
Well, on this particular Tuesday I finished up my food earlier than normal and decided to go out and interact with folks. It was a little strange at first and I ran into lots of folks who knew my name and I had no clue what their names were. I just smiled and tried to maneuver my way through the room making as little eye contact as possible. At this point I was regretting my decision to try and let God stretch me like this. It gets better…
I was almost up to the stage where I would sling on my guitar and then I would be safe..no more interactions, so I thought I decided to speak to some of the people in the 3rd row and one of my friends said to me, “Wow, Davis, what are you doing out here? Signing autographs?”..ouch, Say WHAT? I don’t remember reacting any particular way but it must have shown on my face…this was the very thing I was trying to avoid, awkward moments. I felt exposed and out of my element and didn’t know how to respond .
However, often times It’s like this whenever we step out into new territory and try new and sometimes uncomfortable things. Just like when we go to the gym and we’re trying a new exercise for the 1st time or trying to hit a PR(personal record) on a particular exercise. We may have to lean on our spotter to help us get the weight up the 1st few times. Our sponsor may have to serve as a sounding board more heavily during these times. It will often be awkward and uncomfortable and we may want to retreat to what we know we can do but growth happens when we step into new territory, growth happens when we allow God to stretch us in new ways.
I’ll close with this. I recently was watching the movie “Christopher Robin”(great movie and you should watch it, prepare to cry) and Winnie the Pooh made a statement to Christopher Robin when he had hit a fork in the road. He said “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.” Wow, what a profound truth from a kids movie! I felt God speak to me in that moment and say “Are you ready to go forward to where you’ve never been?”