These thoughts are to help and inspire people like you and me to reach higher and strive for greater things, to stand for a cause more noble than self serving, seeing the good in others and seeking it for their sake. I unashamedly weave my faith, biblical insight and life experiences into a sporting context to illustrate my personal journey to this point - I hope in a small way, I can help you on your journey to being all you were intended to be....

There are now over 50 posts to check out, tweet, link to facebook or google+ Please feel free to share a link BUT If you use any of the illustrations please acknowledge the source as Phil Manchester, Bradford, England. You can follow me on twitter @philmanchester

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Affirmation through testing...

As very young rugby players, we were easily impressed when our points tally read like a cricket score. Our individual points totals increased and the battle for the forward or back with most tries scored was more of a motivator than sticking to the game plan. Today, with try and losing bonus points, heavy scoring will certainly add value to respective league tallies. But the reality is, huge scores against very weak opposition, prove very little and probably tell us no more than we already were aware of. Aside from risking a few  more training ground moves, there is little to be learned from thrashing the opposition.

No matter what we may say outwardly, after a convincingly and easy win, deep down everyone wants to be tested and tested against the best. Sure no one wants to be on the end of a thrashing, but the tougher the opposition, the more seems to be drawn out of stronger players. The testing ground is also the proving ground. Can we step up a level? Have we got what it takes? It was tougher to beat the rugby teams drawn from police forces or the mining and steel communities or the armed forces, but when we won, man, it felt good!

As my own sons have got older, I have smiled to myself as I've watched them look to test themselves against "the old man". With one it was sprinting and hurdling. A test of speed. There was a time when I could keep up. It didn't last for long as it soon became apparent that he was going to excel. The best I could do was act as work out fodder, watch him fly and press the stopwatch! I actually ran a 400m hurdle race once at the same athletics meet, to prove I was in the zone - I completed the race, but from that point it on I learned the hard way, it was all about him not me!

With the other son, its all about mock rugby scrummaging technique. Getting lower than me and driving me backwards. A test of strength. Its also about throwing passes to me that land not in may hands but my midriff. Its all about finding a level. Wanting the test. Wanting to know if they can make it. Wanting to know if they have what it takes. And you know....that's ok and that's right and they should be allowed the space to do that - so long as it comes from the desire for growth and finding their place. As dads, brothers, friends, coaches we have a massive responsibility to recognise what's taking place and react in the right way. Its not about me taking offence, its about the importance of their challenge. Its about helping release guys to be who they can be. That's what the best coaches and leaders model. Its not about putting them down or forcing them to be something they are never going to be. I've learned over time, for our sons and for our daughters its about the power of affirmation.

Affirmation is important however young or old we are. The real key to success is in the who we are becoming not in the what we are doing.

I've seen too many great relationships dragged down by the pressure to perform and live up to something unattainable. The testing, the trial isn't about us doing something to be accepted. That would be self defeating as sometimes we win, sometimes we don't. But the trial the testing is more about us finding out what we are made of. Who we are. Without the trial without the testing we wont know what we are capable of.

God understands the way men work. So many people miss-read him. He doesn't want men to perform to be accepted. If that was the case, I guess like me, you'd concede, we mess up quite a lot of the time. He wants us to succeed as men and in the same way that we make room for the young guns to come through, He understands the importance of showing us we are accepted through relationship as sons, not on personal form or performance. He equally understands the incredible power of affirmation. The bible has a brilliant illustration of this. Just at the point that the man's man Jesus Christ was emerging into his life's calling, before he had done anything openly - God said openly of him "this is my son and I am so impressed with the man he is".

Running out on to the pitch, knowing who you are, knowing you have the affirmation of your team mates, knowing you have what it takes is a great boost. The same is true in life. The challenge is, there is a generation that are pushing, pressing for the tests, the trials wanting affirmation. Lets not block them, lets help unlock them and their potential - I wonder what kind of a team we could make?

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