Something that has unexpectedly been on my heart lately is whether or not Cross Training – the ministry I’ve been a part of for the last four years – is where I’m supposed to be this year. The thought first crept into my mind a few days before the kick-off barbecue a week ago. Cross Training is primarily a ministry designed to reach out to the athletes of U of O, Lane Community College, or Northwest Christian University. I’m not an athlete. I have yet to be an athlete during my college career and with as much as I don’t work out, I probably won’t be an athlete. Some may think really shouldn’t play a factor in choosing a ministry to be a part of, but for me it does.
At some point within a community of believers, an individual has to feel comfortable about who he or she is and how the rest of that community feels around him or her. But when you’re a non-athlete in an athlete’s community, even though everyone may like you, you just begin to feel awkward or out of place. Or at least I have started to. This is something that I’ve been praying over for the last week and I think I finally received my answer.
Ministries can only have as much impact as we allow them to. If we give only a small portion of our time, energy, and effort, then we probably won’t receive much. But if we dedicate more of ourselves to engaging the people around us, to hear where they’re from, what they believe, what their story is, then perhaps – even if we don’t notice it at first – we’ll begin to feel a growth in the Lord that we probably didn’t anticipate. And from my short experience with God, the unexpected leaps and bounds in the faith are the most strengthening.
A major reason why I didn’t feel that Cross Training was the ministry for me anymore was because I didn’t believe that I could really engage the athletes. I didn’t feel like I could relate very well to them since their lifestyles are drastically different from mine. From the early morning to the late night, the athletes that I know are frequently busy in their efforts to exceed academically and athletically. I doubt I could ever operate well under their schedule.
What I realized tonight, though, is that simply because I live a very different lifestyle from most athletes does not mean I’m unable to relate with them. Essentially, I used this idea as an excuse so I wouldn’t have to open myself up anymore than I already have. But as C.S. Lewis once said, God wants all of us. He doesn’t care for the excuses we make; He wants every inch of us – every inch of our hearts, souls, and minds. And that means, at least for me, I ought not to run simply because I feel awkward or out of place. Instead, I should embrace the awkwardness.
Reading through the gospels – and especially John where Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman – I see a common theme within early Christianity; the refusal to divide. In true Christianity – that is, what Jesus taught – the differing denominations and church branches were never supposed to exist. From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we were supposed to love each other as fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. And in many situations, this means we just might have to embrace socially awkward situations, like being a non-athlete at an athlete’s ministry.
An example comes from Acts 11:18; “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” My eyes caught onto the possible-meanings of “they fell silent.” I believe that was Christianity’s first awkward moment. Let me explain; early Jewish Christians, as we see in Scripture, believed that Christ was Messiah, but that you still had to abide by many of the Old Testament laws, specifically what is in the Torah – the first five books of the Bible. Part of these rules from the Torah involved not eating with “commoners” or “Gentiles” for they were non Jews and they just simply didn’t associate with them. And then all of a sudden Peter reveals that the Gentiles, too, were to be treated as God’s people in the faith.
So if Gentiles were allowed back then to eat with Jews and worship Jesus together, side-by-side, then I, too, can engage and worship God with athletes. It’ll be awkward, yes, but that’s just it; it has to be awkward for a little bit. Our human nature is so utterly flawed that it is no longer perpetually comfortable to love and honor God with everything we do. In many, many ways we must now struggle and strain to pour our lives out for Him. And in other ways, also, we must embrace the awkward feelings when approaching a new or just different crowd. Those awkward feelings are there to tell us we’re doing things right, sort of…