Monday, December 10, 2012

God as a coach - A failed experiment?

Back in August, I wrote a post about Ryan Hall's performance in the 2012 Olympic marathon and what it meant in light of his special training method. At the time, Ryan was practicing faith based coaching; where a runner relies on his or her God to direct their physical training.

As you might have seen, Ryan recently announced that he will begin training under a new, mortal, flesh and blood coach. Ryan's new coach, Renato Canova, seems quite impressive, and I am certainly a fan of his rumored emphasis on hill work.

Although this isn't the first time Ryan has trained under a human coach, I'm excited to see what Canova brings out in him. I can't help but wonder, however, how Ryan will adjust to this change in his professional running life. Here's some of what he had to say about the change:

While this is certainly a new chapter in my career I don't feel like it's a huge departure from how I have operated in the past- MSN Innovation For Endurance - 

Not a huge departure? Ryan used to be solely coached by God and now has a human coach? How is that not a big departure. Doesn't this mean he has given up on God to direct his running? Doesn't this mean that God failed Ryan as a coach? No, I don't think that's what this means at all.

I believe Proverbs 3:6 can be of good use here. The passage says "in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." If we are to truly enjoy life to the fullest as only God can provide, we must allow Him control over all aspects of our lives. I believe that is what Ryan Hall was doing when he placed his professional life fully in God's control. How did that work out? In terms of Olympic victories, not so great. But, what about spiritual victories? How can anyone but Ryan himself judge how many spiritual victories were won during this period of his life?

Maybe that was the whole point of his faith-based coaching experience? Maybe God wanted to train Ryan's faith instead of his running. Maybe now that Ryan's faith has been strengthened to the level God desired, God has put a fantastic running coach in Ryan's path so that his running can reach the highest of levels.

This is what I like to call "the head fake" - where someone asks you to do one thing in order to teach you something else. By submitting his running to God, Ryan probably learned volumes about faith and God's provision. One would have assumed that by submitting his running to God, He would have blessed Ryan's running. That just isn't God's style. He isn't that predictable.

So, before we all start cynically quipping "Ha, that God-coached thing sure didn't work very well did it?", we should ask ourselves, did we really expect God to train Ryan Hall in running when He had the perfect chance to train him in matters of Godliness?"