The other day, I took my daughter to her volleyball lesson and ended up getting a lesson of my own.
Normally, when my 11-year old daughter has her volleyball lesson, it’s just me, her, and her coach in the high-school gym. This week it was different. The coach’s sister, a well-trained fifteen-year-old, was there as well, practicing with her coach as she has been doing for the past six years. Both were focused and ready to work on their skills. For my part, I had brought a book with me that I had just begun, and was looking forward to getting into.
As the two girls practiced, I settled into my book, reading about the way God works in us to prepare us to impact the world for Him. The squeaks of sneakers on the gym floor faded into the background as the two girls warmed up. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my daughter begin to serve balls over the net. She’s improved so much in only a few weeks, and I’m tremendously proud of her. Then I heard it, “Boom!” like a thunderclap or shot from a cannon and again, “Boom!” It startled me and where my consciousness had been split between what I was reading and my pleasure with my daughter’s progress, it was now captivated as this powerhouse teenager rocketed ball after ball over the net with a force like I’d never seen before.
As I watched, I started thinking about how important it is to have role models in our lives – people we can look to and admire their skill, who give us something to strive for. This holds true whether we are striving so succeed athletically, academically, spiritually, or at a craft. Being able to observe someone more accomplished act as a model as we observe their technique, and it can also inspire us by showing us what is possible. The Bible provides many such models – men and women who, often from the humblest beginnings, were used greatly by God. In short, I was struck by the importance of paying attention to those further along whatever path we are on in order to emulate their success and to be inspired.
As I continued to observe the girls, another truth began to reveal itself. As a father, I have become accustomed to hearing phrases like, “I can’t,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never get it.” Now, I was hearing similar objections. This time, they weren’t coming from my daughter, but from the older player. As her coach worked to hone her skills, it was obvious that the player was really trying hard. Nevertheless, I heard more than once, “I’m just not strong enough,” or “I just can’t get it right.” That’s when the second lesson occurred to me: no matter our skill level, we all struggle. What’s more, the struggles are often the same in nature, even if they are different in intensity.
So, in summary, have role models and learn from them, but don’t idolize them. They struggle just like you do. And keep striving. Even the most accomplished were once where you are.