Five children, ages seven to ten, were lined up side-by-side on the cement pool deck, my sister and I among them. Our diving coach stood about ten feet in front of us, clapping out the same rhythm, “Step: 1 -2- 3, JUMP!”
Five new divers took three steps forward as counted, and then jumped as high as we could. After jumping, we’d scramble back to the starting point on the deck to do it again. And again. And again. After a while, we added throwing our arms up in the air, while kicking up our left knee before jumping. Step by repetitive step, we learned a dive approach.
I remember practicing that darn three-step approach for days. Finally, we were allowed to move to the diving board. Step: 1 – 2 – 3, knee and arms up, pushing down on the flexible board, bouncing up high, sailing up into the air and landing in the water.
Now, as an adult, diving is one of my favorite sports to watch. The movements in the air are amazing, as are the perfect entries. But those dives start on the board. Fancy dives just don’t happen without a strong approach and a high bounce.
We’ve all had the experience of crawling before walking, and babbling before we speak. These are necessary beginning steps to a new skill. We don’t usually question why these steps are needed, because it makes sense that it’s ‘practice, practice, practice’ that shapes and prepares us for growth.
Not that it’s easy. Diving into a new skill, or branching out into a new job or volunteer position can be very daunting. How am I supposed to know if I can do it? If God called me here, shouldn’t I see success quickly?
I often struggle with these questions. I have hope that I’ll be successful, but doubt comes in with expectations. I want mastery of new skills to come fast and easy. But if I’d just look back on my diving experience, I’d certainly be comforted.
Not everything comes quickly, and really, it rarely happens that way. Having to work hard to make the most of our opportunities is truly a universal truth.
If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.
~Mark Spitz, Winner of 7 Gold Medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games
Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come. ~Serena Williams, Winner of 2 Gold Medals at 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games
Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.
If you’re feeling called to something new, don’t decide that it’s not for you if you’re not immediately successful. Just take a deep breath and try to enjoy the season of learning. It can be as much fun as finally mastering the new skill.
Be kind and gentle with yourself, knowing that good things eventually come with open eyes, open ears and a willingness to practice.
Step: 1 – 2 – 3. You begin at the beginning. But with work and practice, who knows how high you’ll soar?
Surrounded by the Spirit on Facebook