One time when I was in my early twenties, I watched a good friend of mine have a total yard sale off the diving board, just plastering himself against the flat surface of the pool water . . . there, in all his aquatic glory, in front of an array of plastic lawn chair – laden onlookers.
Thankfully his face cushioned all of the fall.
It was truly amazing.
He started out like we all do on the diving board . . . with the “testing” bounces, getting ready, gearing up, getting up a little strength and balance . . . momentum . . . mustering all the grace and power he could . . . winding up and here we go, here comes the dive of the day . . . (I was readying myself to hold high my grading sign . . . “9.8”, . . . knowing that only an Olympian could truly get a 10 from me).
I wish I could deconstruct everything that happened next, that we might all be able to walk away understanding more deeply the “Anatomy of a Poolside Disaster” . . . all of us more equipped to NOT do this to ourselves.
However all I know that really happened is that his feet got tossed way upward, his upper body lurching outward . . . his balance becoming so off and so forward that the TOPS of his toes got scraped on the diving board as he flew wildly forward out and over the water. Add to that a few desperate pinwheel motions with both arms and wham . . . the facial sting of defeat.
You know that sting, right?
Picture it with me . . . a sharp and deep, spreading-out-across-the -surface-and-into skin-and-muscle kind of sting.
Now maybe you haven’t perched yourself above a flat and unforgiving surface of water and concentrated the weight of your whole body on your face… but you’ve been stung.
Maybe you jumped off the swings too high and when you landed your ankle stung REALLY bad.
Perhaps it was the bees. The bees got you.
Or maybe you had a shot.
Or maybe you were bitten by fire ants.
Point being the STING . . . You remember the sting, right? Good.
Because sometimes that sting is not physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional.
Or maybe it’s spiritual.
There are some pretty profound times in our lives when someone we know and love calls us out . . . they challenge us truthfully . . . they see something in our hearts and habits that may not be all that good and they confront us . . . and with just the right words. It seems in that moment they know us all too well, don’t they? We get really mad at first, maybe even reacting.
But then. Ouch.
They got me.
They know me.
They see me. Sort of stings.
Kind of like an aquatic belly flop on the face.
But you and I also know the flip side of this too, right? In some weird way, the sting gains our attention, and we find that the truth smacked us just now… and we may in fact walk away with more perspective and maybe even more maturity than we had moments ago.
Oh, the sting of teaching moments.
There is this place in the Bible . . . this whole section where all this wisdom is being machine-gunned at us from the heart of someone whom God has given insight… and he comes up with this one line.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
You know how that works right? Iron pushes hard up against iron, almost at times grinds against… in an uncomfortable way… and digs into the surface, helping both pieces to sharpen the other.
Sounds like it stings.
Something that sometimes stings an awful lot.
I want you to know that you were not designed to be alone. Nor to be an island. Nor to be a loner, or someone hidden from others, keeping them and the truth at arm’s length . . . refusing to see or be seen in a world that is wounding.
You were made to be with.
To grow alongside.
To get deeper with.
To grow in grace because of, and to help grow in grace. I mean, we’re all sheep on this road together, right?
To sharpen, and to be sharpened by.
Your walk . . . my walk . . . they each work with one another and for one another in the process of God sharpening and shepherding our lives.
My friends’ walks and the “digging through” and the “trudging through” that each of us have to do . . . they speak to me personally, encourage and challenge, inspire and confront me. As a friend . . . and as a child of God.
This is why I believe it is not enough to “attend church”, to “serve church” or to “give at church”. While each of these are worthwhile and God works in it, they can all still be done in a way that keeps our hearts and our walks separate from others… our spirits and victories, our joys, our brokenness and fears hidden.
Because as iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another. And yes, it can sting sometimes. But often its just ridiculously fulfilling, even on the other side of the work of being-with others.
So may you walk with someone.
May you talk and dig and laugh and cry with others.
May you face-plant off a diving board with another there to witness.
May you embrace the sometimes-stinging, often fulfilling, and always freeing ways the Spirit of God sharpens us by the life and love of another.
Photo used with permission, thanks so much! http://ianrushton.smugmug.com/