When it's done right, it looks effortless.
Quite possibly my favorite part of the Olympics, couples figure skating is a picture of beauty. As the couples dance together on the ice in perfectly unity, it is easy to watch them and be enamoured by their perfection. To me, it is nothing less than breathtaking.
I camp out on my couch, turn down the lights, and get lost in the perfection of two people who move together as one, whose perfection is in their partnership. I am enthralled by their excellence. The precision amazes me.
And they make it look so easy. It is as though they have always been so amazing, as though they entered this world with skates on their feet and flawless lines programmed into their limbs. In fact, these examples of grace learned to walk by falling down and getting back up. The elegant lines were proceeded by ugly bruises and hot tears. Those heart-stopping lifts were cultivated through the furnace of falling and getting back up...one more time. Their unity is the result of hours of practicing oneness, moving together, working out the bumps and awkwardness, learning trust, learning to move as one.
There are times I look at Christians I know, spiritual peers whom I admire, and I am caught up in their seemingly flawless Christian walk. I watch their spiritual dance of unity with God, and I become enthralled by the perfection of their relationship. It looks as though they never make a mistake, which is pretty discouraging on its own, but they make it look like they've always had the closeness I see now, and that can be really discouraging.
The truth is, though, I only see them a fraction of the time. I don't see them in their quiet time, on their face, tears dripping from their chins as they seek strength to endure the fire that surrounds them. I don't know their repentance of yesterday's sins. I don't see their hearts or the wounds from the latest assault that may have even come in the form of friendly fire.
I see the matured selves, the ones that have grown from the struggle of learning to tune their ears to the Father's voice, repeatedly putting themselves on the altar, and painfully killing flesh until Jesus shows more than they do. I see the walk that has come from stumbling in faith, falling, repenting, and receiving grace. A walk that has grown steadier by finding mercy and being forgiven. A walk that is not perfect but a heart that is perfectly set on God's faithfulness.
These are not perfect people doing a perfect dance. They are real people, who take real falls, who feel real pain. They are people who do train for excellence and do the best they can, who can get it beautifully right or painfully wrong on any given day. They are people who do not put faith in their performance but in God's grace.
Ultimately, though, it is not the precision of the performance that fascinates me. It is knowing the imperfections the couples...and the Christians...have faced and overcome that keeps my attention. It is their courage to work through the fatigue, endure the pain, ignore the voices of failure, and learn from past falls that inspires me. I cannot help but be encouraged when I see these people of excellence doing the best they can and trust that no matter what the outcome, they will have done enough. It isn't their perfection that I admire.
No, I watch them because I want to learn their ability to walk in unity...
...and it look so effortless.