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  • Katie Smith

Finding our Swing, on the Road



I picked up a great biography for my own summer reading last year, "Boys in a Boat." If you're not into crew, rowing, Nazi Germany, or even olympic sports, don't worry, the story will still engulf you. For me I think I thought it was titled, "Boys in the Rig." I knew nothing about crew or what it took to build a boat worthy of Olympic gold, but the historical account of those boys growing up in the depression and making it to the 1936 Olympics was fascinating. George Clooney recently made a movie about it, but the movie pales in comparison (as most movies do next to their paperback originals--sorry George).


What struck me most, though, was the mention of "swing." Boat builder and rowing philosopher George Pocock defines it like this:

"There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. ... It's called 'swing.' It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others."
Therein lies the secret of successful crews: Their swing makes the work of propelling the 'shell' a delight."

Pocock knew that the difficulty of rowing as a team became a delight only with swing--the phenomenon happens when all the oarsmen are in perfect alignment, and the coxswain is calling out numbers as rhythmically as the water moving under the boat. The effortless rhythm of synchronization, or unity, intimately links the people as one body pulling the load.


Have you ever seen a family that gets along really well when traveling? Everyone knows the best place to help and serve for the betterment of the whole family. Those families kind of make you feel terrible if your fighting or fussing with your own. But those families have found their swing. When all the members of family, team, or organization fully trust each other, then they can let go of struggling and swing emerges.


Once people understand the mystery of swing or unity a full dependency and trust exists, and they can face all of life's challenges with steadiness. If you don't trust the people next to you, then you hold your independence with a tight fist. You row harder, carrying the load yourself, exhausting yourself and barely making any progress.


Swing in rowing is no different than swing in life. If we commit only to ourselves, then we miss the magic of dependent-living. When we trust and depend on others, we feel less struggle in our daily work. I knew it would take time to find our "swing" in full-time RV living, but the transitions or unexpected setbacks provide the most painful tests.


We are forming calluses and learning to communicate our needs in new ways because swing requires giving up control, confessing frustration, and enlisting help. If one member of the team keeps living for his own agenda, then the entire experience in the boat, or rig, becomes painful.


Even when we find our swing, the weather, health, or mood of each team member alters the conditions of the atmosphere. We have to learn a new way of depending on God and one another as "one mind and one heart." This was the prayer for God's first church, but many churches have lost their trust and thus lost their swing. This is my prayer for our family as we start this new lifestyle--find our swing, "Make our joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (Phil 2:2).


If we all trust God to be our "coxswain," calling out the perfect pace and rhythm, and if we fully trust that He has our best intentions in mind, then we will begin to trust each other and achieve a beautiful swing in this rig. You can feel it when it happens. The work feels fun, and the journey a breeze, and the more we experience swing, the easier it will be to get it back when we lose it.


After a month of moving and a week of rigging, we haven't even begun to find our rhythm. Instead, we simply took a week to unpack and travel to the middle of the country to establish ourselves. Now we can start school and "real life."

Here's to those boat-builiding muscles and patient resets when we our oars bang against each other. Prayer is powerful, and humility is the solution. We've seen already the need to trust and depend on God for EVERYTHING!




~Swinging Carefully Careless

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