I've seen the races before, but this time, as I watched the precision of the rowers and listened to the shouts of encouragement coming from a passenger in the boat, I grew curious about the details of the sport. What I learned after some research was just how much a rowing team resembles our Christian walk...or at least how it should look. For starters, just look at the teamwork required just to get the boat IN the water. The team needs to lift the burden together... just as we should be lifting one another's burdens up in prayer.
Then, once the boat is in the water, each of these team members has a specified position in the boat.
Using an 8 person boat as an example, the one closest to the front of the boat, or the 'stern', is called the 'stroke'. This is the rower who is the most technically sound member of the team. It is that person's responsibility to establish the rhythm and rate of the boat - or basically, the speed at which they proceed. In the picture below, you can see a person facing the rowers. That non-rowing member of the team is the 'coxswain' and his responsibility is to steer the boat by working with the 'stroke', to provide motivation and encouragement to the crew, to let the crew know where they are in relation to other crews and the finish line, and to make any necessary race tactic calls.
Not to over simplify things, but when I think about the positions in the boat equated to our Christian walk, I think of Jesus as the one in the stroke seat with God as the coxswain. Jesus is in the intercessor postion, establishing the rhythm of our lives when we're in submission to him. God's in the boat with us, directing us, providing encouragement throughout the race and the only one who can actually see the finish line.
The middle rowers are the body of believers. We are to keep our eyes looking ahead, trusting on God to guide us. We faithfully serve, pulling together to stay consistent in the race, and working together toward a common goal.
The last 2 rowers in the 8 person boat are called the bow pair. This pair are more responsible for the stability and the direction of the boat than the other rowers, and are often very technical rowers. In my little analogy, these would be our leaders, our pastors and the like.
So if the rowers all have a position in the boat that utilizes their strengths, what if one started to complain about their position within the boat?
What if a middle rower decides to switch positions or stop rowing?
I'm not even sure it's physically possible to stand up in one of those long boats let alone crawl over others to switch seats...but I'll tell you what...aren't we all guilty of having made the attempt at one point or another in our lives? You know what I'm talking about.
You think you can do something better than the person doing it...or
You think you're doing all the work with none of the credit...or
You don't see why you should have to be the one to volunteer...again...
Worse yet, maybe it's not another member of the body you have issue with...maybe you want to be in charge of the rhythm and rate of the boat.
What if you try to sit in the stroke seat?
Yes...I'm talking about switching seats with Jesus. C'mon, you remember...
Those times when things weren't moving along fast enough for you...
Those times when you thought switching lanes would give you an advantage...
Those times when you foolishly thought you could be face to face with God and tell him you could do a better job getting where you wanted to go...
And what happened? You rocked the boat. You capsized the boat. Or maybe you just caused the boat to go around in circles without moving forward so long you got completely disoriented.
It's time for one more comparison today. You see that big white boat in the picture? That boat is like the Holy Spirit. It follows the crews throughout the entire race. The person in that boat chastises the rowers if they begin to stray from their lane...they keep them on the straight and narrow as it were. If anything happens to a rower, they are there to pluck them up out of the water.
In our Christian walk, as in rowing, there is a proper order to things. We need God at the head or we run the risk of being in the race but getting off course because we cannot see the finish line. We need Jesus in our midst to set the pace. He intercedes on our behalf with the Father and together they guide us. We need to work together as a team, understanding that each person has strengths and weaknesses and God has placed us in the position He wants us in so we are best used to accomplish His purposes. If we try to switch up that placement we run the risk of bringing harm to the entire group. Our pastors and teachers are there to give us the stability and guidance we need as we navigate the sometimes rough waters in our lives. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit to keep from straying from what is right.
How are you doing today? Are you fulfilling the mission of your position in the boat?
Are you rowing in the right order?