The top half of the picture here was taken at the 40th bday party for my good friend Matt. The bottom picture was taken 22 years previous when Matt and his younger brother Jon were high school students and I was a student ministry leader at our church. The three of us have been in an Ironsharpening relationship for over two decades. It started with basketball workouts and quickly became a tremendous ironsharpening relationship. That bday party got me thinking about how many relationships that I have that came as a result of playing sports.
As far back as I can remember, I've always had success at creating and building friendships through sports. For me, sports are more than a game, it's a perfect platform and picture for life in general.
One of my heroes, Coach John Wooden said that for him, when he sees a former player, he doesn't ask about the numbers they are putting up, he says he can read a box score if he wants to know that, but he asks them about their life away from basketball. He asks about family, faith and community. For him as me as well, I am more interested in what someone is doing with those things and how I can come alongside and be a friend and support them. It was born out of this line of thinking that I have had and have lived the last three decades.
Don't get me wrong, I love playing sports and am seriously addicted to the competition, but when the game is over, that is where the friendship is built. In a previous article "Separating Yourself From The Competiton: The Secret of Competition" (click here to read) I mentioned playing 1v1 with my friend after thanksgiving dinner. What I didn't say then is that one of the best parts of that night with him is the life chat that we had for two hours after we played. It was a chance for the both of us to learn from each other.
Whenever I get together with friends for some ball, I always look forward to both the competition and the talks afterwards. Over the years, I have had the privilege of becoming friends with some of the most amazing people. What may have started as competition ended up becoming friends that I have had the privilege of doing life with. From performing their weddings, to celebrating births of their children, to watching them become successes in all they do, I am a lucky man to be included in their lives.
I have had critics over the years tell me that all I do is play basketball with people and hang out and that I need to get a life. What I say to them is...guilty as charged! What they don't know, is how this is a part of the foundation for what I do, which is invest in people. If you need proof, all you have to do is ask any of the people I have had the privilege of calling friends and fellow Ironsharpeners.
One of those friends, Adam was an all-American college track athlete at one of our local colleges We met through our church where I was serving as the sports outreach pastor. Our first meeting together, I got the chance to see his heart and desire to grow and discover his passion in life as we began the That was a great foundation for the relationship that we started that is still going to this day.
I recently asked Adam to describe our relationship and this is what he had to say.....
“When we met I had just entered my senior year at North Central College in Naperville, IL coming off a successful track and field season where my 4x400m team earned All American honors. What is success and how do I obtain it? Jason helped me wrestle with this question on and off the track. What does it mean to be a man and what is my God-given purpose? Through one on one mentorship, Jason helped instill in me a vision for making my life count, not only in seeking my own personal growth, but by investing and multiplying my life through investing in others.”
In a recent teaching session he shared with his students about how I challenged him to reach out to his friends who were witnessing his life transformation and share his entire story. He did and it led to a life transformation for that friend and that started the realization that he could be a mentor to others. Over the years, Adam has become a trusted partner in ministry as we both are pursuing the call to mentor others through relationship. Adam now works as a mentor and leader at the University of Minnesota with a group called "The Navigators" Their mission is to mentor/disciple college students who are capable of doing the same to others in their world.
Although there is a leader and a follower in most mentoring relationships, ironsharpening relationships are more about partnerships. I recently met with another friend, Zeke who took the time to check in after his first semester away after graduating high school. I asked him about what he's learned through our three year relationship, he said " leadership is not about being above someone, but it's about walking beside them" He reminded me that over the years one of the best things about our sessions was the freedom he had to talk about what was on his mind and feel like he was being understood. Whether we were studying some book together, working out, playing basketball or whatever, the ability to talk on a real level was important to his growth in his faith, life and the pursuit of a call to mentor others.
For me, watching Zeke who was a wrestler and played Lacrosse, grow from a guy who you had to work to get him to open up about himself to a man who now actively mentors and disciples his peers has been amazing. Our friendship has been one of understanding each other. He reminded me of myself as a high school student. I was a bit of an introvert but I had this desire inside me to help others. All he needed was someone to encourage him to go for more and push past his comfort zone. Over the years, it has been fun to see him break barriers as he became a leader in his YoungLife group at his high school and start to invest in his friends and fellow athletes. He's carrying this mission on by coaching others at the gym he works at and helping with YoungLife in his area.
Ironsharpening is something that goes beyond leading others but learning to walk together into the purpose intended for your life. It's a two way relationship. Both individuals have something to bring to the table. These relationships are built to last. Whether it's three years, ten years or over 22 years, these types of relationships have a lasting impact that if done right, can impact many others beyond the two people in the friendship.
In our next post, we will begin to explore the mind and heart of an Ironsharpener. It takes the right mindset to establish and maintain long term mentoring relationships that stand the test of time. Look around, who around you could you walk through life with that not only want to be sharpened, but who can sharpen you Who can you walk with as the both of you strive to become "Better Together!"
Stay Forever Strong!
Stay Forever Strong!