How To Swing A Kettlebell
Please read the following instructions carefully.
Take a natural stance with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and place the kettlebell between your insteps. Pick up the kettlebell with two hands while keeping your chest open and your back straight, maintaining your lumbar curve and a stabilized midline. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs; sitting “back” rather than “down.” Keep your shins nearly vertical throughout the exercise. Explosively snap through your hips to full extension; letting the kettlebell project upward. Lift dynamically rather than hesitantly using a powerful hip drive. Keep your arms straight and loose and use the power from your legs and hips. In the finish position at the top of the swing the arms and legs are straight and locked, the feet and body are stationary, the arms must be level with the head or slightly behind the head, the core is engaged and stable and the head neutral; look straight ahead at all times. Lower the kettlebell in one smooth, uninterrupted motion to swing between your legs in preparation for the next swing. Be sure to keep your core tight so the momentum of the kettlebell will not pull you out of position, jar your wrist joints, or stress your back.
That was all perfectly clear, right? Based on that description alone, do you feel equipped to swing a kettlebell with proper form so that your spine doesn’t shoot out your back and ricochet around the room?
If you said yes, then go ahead and make an appointment with your chiropractor.
The instructions above contain accurate information, but that’s not enough is it?
Maybe a picture would help.
A video would be even better.
Swinging a kettlebell is a skill. Most skills are hard to learn from written instructions alone. It really helps to see someone else do it first.
We can learn a list of facts from a book. We can learn the basic tenets of a philosophy by reading about them and discussing them with others. But we don’t learn skills by reading about them in books or talking about them with others. We learn skills by watching others demonstrate the skill and then imitating what they do.
Following Christ Is A Skill
Paul’s letter to his friends in Philippi shows us is that Christianity is more than a philosophy to be studied in a book. It’s more than a list of beliefs to be discussed in Bible class. Christianity is a way of life. A way of life that requires a specific skill set. Paul hopes to pass on this skill set to his friends, so they can conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.
In Philippians, this skill set includes the ability to:
• Discern what really matters and what doesn’t.
• See our little stories in the context of God’s larger story, especially when our stories are going badly.
• Let suffering draw us closer to Christ, rather than alienate us from God.
• Put the needs and interests of others before our own.
• Do everything without grumbling or arguing.
• Rejoice in the midst of difficult circumstances
These are acquired skills. They do not come naturally to the uninitiated. They make no sense apart from a life in Christ. They must be learned.
Paul doesn’t share these skills in a list of bullet points like I just did. Instead, he gives a series of examples that will show the Philippians what each skill looks like in action. He wraps these skills in the story of the way Jesus humbled himself for the sake of others (Philippians 2:6-11). Using Jesus as an example is inspiring, but it also leaves us with an escape route, doesn’t it? The Philippians knew they were supposed to imitate Jesus. They also knew he was perfect and he was also God. That’s setting the bar pretty high.
Jesus isn’t the only example Paul uses. He also weaves these skills into his description of his own circumstances (Philippians 1:12-26; 3:1-21). Throughout the letter, Paul keeps saying, “Watch me, I’ll show you how to do it.” Again, the Philippians could say, “We know you want us to follow your example, but we can’t be like you, because Paul, let’s face it, you’re weird! You’re the most obsessed person we know. We love you, but you’re wearing us out.”
That’s okay, because Paul has other examples he can point to.
In the middle of the letter, Paul tells the Philippians he’s going to send to them a couple of average guys, whom the Philippians know and love. These two guys are live demonstrations of the skill set Paul has been describing.
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” (Philippians 2:19–24, NIV)
Timothy imitates Paul as Paul imitates Christ. Paul says if you want to know what it looks like to have the same attitude as Christ and put the interests of others above your own, then watch Timothy. He’ll show you how to do it.
“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.” (Philippians 2:25–30, NIV)
The Philippians sent Epaphroditus with a financial gift for Paul while he was in prison. Along the way, Epaphroditus became ill and nearly died, as missionaries sometimes do when they travel. Again, Paul essentially says if you want to know what it looks like to risk your life for the gospel and to put the needs of others above your own well being, watch Epaphroditus. He’ll show you how to do it.
This is a challenging notion for some of us. We’re comfortable saying we’re imitating Christ, even though we know we can never fully live up to his example. But we balk at saying we’re imitating anyone else. We’d like to believe our instruction in the Christian life is piped straight from Jesus to us, but that’s not the way it works.
In 1st Corinthians 11:1, Paul writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Then later in Philippians he says:
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. ” (Philippians 3:17–18, NIV)
Paul is not shy about calling people to follow his example or the example of people like Timothy and Epaphroditus. He also warns the Philippians about picking the wrong examples to imitate. Knowing whom to imitate and whom to ignore is a skill in itself.
Some read Paul’s words and charge him with arrogance. Who is he to tell others to follow his example?
How would you feel if someone at your church grabbed the mic one Sunday and said, “If you’re wondering what it looks like to the put the needs of others before you own, just watch me, because I’m the most humble person in this church. Follow my example and I’ll show you how to imitate Christ.”
It wouldn’t go well would it? And yet, how else are we to learn the Christian skill set?
In his wonderful commentary on Philippians, Stephen Fowl writes:
It is clear that such a life demands the acquisition and display of a variety of skills, disciplines, and habits of thinking, feeling and acting. As with any complex practice we can only hope to acquire these skills, disciplines, and habits to the extent that we submit ourselves to the example of those more advanced in the practice. Hence, for Paul and for all Christians, the only arrogance surrounding the language of imitation would be the arrogance of those so formed by the ethos of individualism that they think they can walk the path of discipleship without observing, learning from, and imitating those who are already farther down that path.
While we might say it differently than Paul does, there is still no better way of passing on a difficult and complex skill set than to follow the example of those who have been doing it longer than we have.
This is one reason why being part of a Christian community is so valuable. Churches are full of examples of what it looks like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
We’re Watching You
Here’s an assignment: Go to someone whose example inspires you and say to them, “I’m watching you.” (Try not to say it in a creepy way.)
Usually when someone says, “I’m watching you,” it has a negative spin. As in, I’m gonna catch you doing something wrong.
This is meant to be positive. As in, I want to catch you doing something right so I can say, “Aha! So that’s what it looks like to follow Christ.”
It’s not enough to read the instructions. We need examples. We need models. We need someone to show us what the Christian skill-set looks like in action.
So we’re watching you.
We’re watching those of you who have been diagnosed with cancer. We need you to show us how to move forward with hope and strength.
We’re watching those of you who are caring for spouse slipping into the fog of Alzheimer’s. We need you to show us the true meaning of covenant love.
We’re watching those of you who have had your heartbroken by tragedy so we’ll know how to respond when tragedy visits us.
We’re watching those of you who are following Jesus against the wishes of your friends and family. You’re showing us how to stand firm in the face of opposition.
We watching those of you who have ascended to the top of your profession. We need you to show us how to pursue excellence without compromising your values.
We’re watching those of you who have been blessed with more money than you know what to do with. We’re counting on you to show us how to be generous out of our abundance.
We’re watching those of you who are getting by with very little money. We’re counting on you to show us how to be content with what we have, rather than be tormented by what we can’t afford.
We’re watching those of you who have been given the responsibility of leadership. We need you to show us how to put the needs and interests of others above our own, even though we may have the power, influence and status to always get our way.
Watch, Do, Teach
One of the most effective teaching techniques is “watch one, do one, teach one.” Watch someone do something, do it yourself, then teach someone else how to do it. This is how the Christian skill-set is passed down from generation to generation: we watch, we do, we teach.
So who are you watching?
And what are you doing?
And who is watching you?
Because as long as someone is watching, you’re teaching.