I'm privileged to have a family who supports this pursuit even though they might find it, well, they might wonder a bit at my sanity to take vacation time to volunteer at an indoor swim meet, not getting to enjoy much of the warm weather (in a place like Austin) during the cold of a Midwest Winter. But they love me anyway!
Why do I do it? I think it's important to have a hobby or activity that is totally different from the paying job. There are important lessons to learn and growth to experience that I don't believe can happen by staying in one setting all the time.
1. Having a hobby helps push my comfort zone into the learning zone. Nobody wants to go to the panic zone, that place way beyond the learning zone. Everybody needs to go to the learning zone regularly. When I head off to a meet, especially one that requires a trip to an airport, I find myself more open to learning. I think it's the same reason a mission trip works so well to grow our faith. When we move into a different culture, a different setting, we can't depend on our usual senses and skills. We learn. We grow.
2. Having a hobby frees my heart and mind to think in new ways, through different angles, about issues at work. Familiarity can breed stagnation. When I'm on a plane, on a pool deck, in a hotel lobby (like I am as I write this) or out to dinner with fellow officials, my mind can naturally drift to problems, difficulties, ideas and opportunities at work. I find I think about them differently, often leading to better conclusions and fresh ideas than would have been possible "inside."
3. Having a hobby grows my faith. As a Pastor I spend a lot of time with Christ-followers. Hanging with Christians all the time can grow faith but like a ship isn't made for a harbor, so a Christ-follower isn't made to stay inside the Church. My hobby gets me out with people from all different walks of life, with different thoughts about Christianity. I grow. I learn. I influence.
4. Having a hobby helps me get outside my area of discipline. Very similar to #1. I enjoy reading outside my discipline of theology because it grows my heart and mine. My hobby puts me in touch with people who lead companies and organizations. I have learned so much from airline pilots - lawyers - entrepreneurs - small business owners - teachers just to name a few. Through both observation and discussion I learn leadership that I can apply back home.
It's been a great year for growing as an official. The summer sabbatical grant afforded me the opportunity to participate in far more meets than usual, and in locations I'd never thought of going: Santa Clara (a great international meet), Missouri and of course to Omaha for Olympic Trials. I never thought I'd be at Trials. It was a tremendous experience!
This year has made me a better official, a better Pastor, a better leader, a better husband and father. I consistently revisit my summer blog posts, reminding me of the lessons learned (and the ones I'm still learning to apply), the areas of growth that remain (more to come no doubt) and the incredible privilege.
What are you doing to get yourself outside your comfort zone and into the learning zone?