As many of you know I live in the northwoods of Minnesota. I am a fair-weather Minnesota Golden Gopher fan. We recently got a new coach. You may have heard of him. He is P. J Fleck, formerly of Western Michigan, one of the hottest young coaches in college football. He is really energetic and innovative. He is known for his motivating phrase, “Row The Boat.”
Here is an explanation: “When you’re rowing a boat, you can’t see where you’re going. Your back is toward the future, you can’t control it. You’re rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can control. But you’re looking at the past, which is the only thing you can’t change – but you can learn from.” The oar is the energy expended rowing; the boat is the sacrifice made with others, and a compass gives the direction. The coach declares, “either choose to take your oars and put them back in the boat and stop or you put them back in the water and continue to go.”
I thought of Paul words in I Cor. 9:26-7, “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me. I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself” (Message). The writer to the Hebrews encourages us on with the words, “Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Heb 12:2 – Message). Men, keep rowing, while keeping your eyes on Jesus. Help others in the boat do the same.
The young coach has some good points regarding the past, presence and future. First, we can’t change our past, but we certainly can learn from it. Men, it is bad advice to be told to forget the past. No, we need to remember our past, so that we can bring the dark, painful parts to Jesus for healing and forgiveness. It’s part of who you are. Think of it as your sacred wound. Secondly, all we have is the present. We don’t necessarily control the present, but we are open and aware of all that it offers, the good, the bad and the ugly. Remember Jesus is with you in the boat. You will face adversity. Thirdly, we have our backs to the future. It is good for men to be reminded that they are not in charge. We need to trust the future to the Lord, who pilots the boat through any storm.
I have seen pictures of the Western Michigan players with an oar in their hands. This is a reminder of the energy it will take to accomplish the team’s goal. When your rowing, don’t turn around and look where you are going. You will soon get off course. Rowing is not about you, but about contributing to the success of the team. Make sure you have a compass. This, of course, is the Word of God. Listen to the Lord in order to get your bearings. The challenge is to keep rowing. You either take the oar out of water, or you keep rowing.
Let me ask each of you men, “Are you in the boat rowing?” I know for myself – I am rowing as best I can for Jesus. No looking back, living in the present moment and trust Jesus with my future. I’m in the boat with other concerned men, like many who read this blog.