Last Christmas I took up a new hobby – archery.
Personality tests and experience indicate that I am at my best when I am learning. I thrive on the challenge of conquering a new skill or completing a task that I have not done before. I continually compete against myself, believing that I can do better if I work harder. This is not a bad trait. It keeps life interesting. This is what drove me to complete my graduate studies and motivates me to continual improvement as a runner. (Nancy, my wife, says that at my age staying the same is progress. I don’t accept that!)
Often I see parallels between these learning projects and my spiritual growth. Learning projects become spiritual disciplines. This is currently true for archery.
More than anything else I have tried, archery demands focus. To consistently hit bull’s-eyes, an archer must center every part of himself – mind, breathing, every muscle in his body, even heart beats. He must rigorously follow the same multi-step process each time he shoots. Even the smallest deviation will send an errant arrow. Archers reject the idea that “practice makes perfect.” Rather, they know that “perfect practice makes perfect.” A person has to shoot a lot of arrows to be a good archer, but simply shooting a lot of arrows will not make an accurate archer. There are no “casual” shots. A lack of focus has negative consequences. Ask me about my broken $10 arrow!
Shooting arrows has caused me to reevaluate my current spiritual health. I am concerned that casualness has crept into my life. I don’t have the same focus, the same attention to detail, the same energy as I once had. I have become a bit lax on some of my spiritual disciplines. I am reminded that a definition of sin is to “miss the mark,” that is, “to shoot an errant arrow.”
Archery has reminded me of my need for training in godliness. Paul instructs Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7,
“train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”