Creating activities and obstacle courses that are safe, yet intentionally unstable is part of my responsibility as a gymnastics instructor for young children. Before children can begin to perfect technique and skill, they must first learn how their body works and gain the ability to control muscles, fall safely, and avoid injury. Navigating uneven and unsteady surfaces in a safe environment allows them to explore movement through play and discovery, producing within them a confidence necessary to handle more difficult challenges.
In short, learning how to "figure things out" in a safe environment can be a good thing for kids.
As much as I love the sport of gymnastics and am grateful for the opportunity to do something I love here in New Zealand, it's not my intention here to convince you enroll your youngins in a programme near you, nor is it to talk about all the benefits of exercise and physical movement.
Actually, I want to entertain this whole idea of intentional instability. It's absurd really. Don't we spend most of our lives trying to stabilize the unstable? We say that we would never create for ourselves uncomfortable situations or purposefully place obstacles in our own path, but the truth is that most of us do it frequently without realizing it.
I have a notoriously bad sense of direction. Thankfully this is improving, but only slightly. As a teen and young adult, I was often accused of making "long cuts" or making things harder than they needed to be. Why take only 40 minutes to drive to the airport when you could take an 1.5 hours?!
If only all of life's interferences were as inconsequential as a lengthy drive to the airport. Unfortunately, there are much weightier things in life to deal with like relationships with spouses and children, parents and siblings, co-workers and friends. Disaster and hardship come unexpectedly and suffering writes a chapter or two in our life story. Temptations lurk everywhere, hungry to swallow the unsuspecting.
In the middle of all of that, if we choose to detour from the principles of integrity that God has clearly laid out in his Bible, our journey suddenly becomes more hazardous and the obstacles we face aren't so safe anymore. With each choice to reject God's truth we enter into an imbalanced approach to life and create unnecessary hurdles for ourselves and those around us ... and if we don't run back to Christ in repentance, those hurdles will no longer serve to make us stronger, but will work to destroy us.
The good news is that there is always a chance to run back, to confess our sin to God and our need for him. When that occurs, God takes our unintentional instability and makes it intentional. He gives it purpose, like an obstacle in the gymnasium that is actually designed to be conquered, producing flexibility, adaptability and confidence in the overcomer.
Life is an obstacle course, there' no doubt about it! Some of the obstacles are designed by our all-knowing God who, as the ultimate coach, understands the benefits that will result when they are completed. Other obstacles are our own fault, plain and simple. We get ourselves into situations in which we shouldn't be. Still others are placed in our path because of the choices of other people. Some are even put there by the devil, yet allowed presence on our path by our sovereign God, who knows that nothing is impossible with Him.
Regardless of where your instability comes from, know that when given to God, it can become purposeful and serve to produce within in you character, perseverance and an ability to prevent major injury to your spirit.
James 1:2-4 (NLT)
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.