This week the New York Times reported on a controversy which is engulfing the world of Curling. That sport we only ever see at the Winter Olympics where one person, the thrower, hurls a 44 pound stone down a sheet of ice in an effort to have it rest on a target. This effort requires a team, including sweepers. Their job is to sweep in front of the stone, called the rock, removing any debris and clearing its path, even influencing its direction and speed a little, as they prepare where the stone is going.
The sweepers are the athletes of the sport, working really hard to influence the trajectory of the rock. But they cannot touch the rock or be seen to control it, they can only create an environment which will help the rock reach its target.
Where the controversy has emerged is in the use of directional fabric on some new broom designs. There is concern in the sport that this allows sweepers to direct the rock like it was on a joystick. There are accusations of people cheating by using the new brooms, and the once friendly sport has changed.
With Olympic qualifying tournaments underway this month, the World Curling Federation stepped in and issued new rules which severely restricts the types of brooms that can be used.
For those of us outside the Curling world, this might all seem a little silly, but as Brad Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist observed, “How much control is too much control?”
It’s a fair point. Some things can and should be controlled, even coerced, but others can only and should only be influenced. In fact, there is something in us that when we see someone or something being forced or controlled we know this is not the way it is supposed to be.
Apologist, Ravi Zacharias has said of Christianity, we are the largest non-coercive religion in the world. His point is, Christianity is not about forcing people to follow our belief. We cannot, nor should we control someone else’s belief, but like the sweepers, our call is to work hard at creating environments which help others reach God.
This week, consider how you might be living life in a way which influences others toward God. What is filling your conversations? What choices do you make with your time, talents and resources? That is our responsibility. In curling there are times when a sweeper might touch the rock. This is not allowed. This is control. When they do they acknowledge the foul. That is the right thing to do.
It is easy to turn influence into control. If you find yourself committing a foul, raise your hand, apologise for infraction, and go back to creating the very best environment you can.