“The Skill Of A Great Spotter”

Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com

My smile was forced and my voice, though I determined to make it pleasant, had to have sounded strained nonetheless. I had just made my first attempt ever at 350 pounds on the bench press. My strength had taken a good leap forward over the previous few weeks, and I was very certain that I could complete the lift.

But as I looked around the gym that day, all of the men I knew and trusted as spotters were nowhere to be found. For those uninitiated in power lifting terminology, a spotter is a person who stands in the proper place behind you on a heavy lift, and assists you if you are not quite strong enough. He or she may also give a “handoff” on a bench press, helping to lift the bar off of the rack before you take full control of it to attempt the lift.

During the lift in question, though, I never got the chance to see if I was strong enough to make the lift. As I lowered the bar to my chest, the spotter grabbed it and yanked upward as if I was dying. He probably took 100 pounds off of the lift, and my mental focus was instantly too shot to even begin to try again.

And so it was that I found myself explaining to him, “Thanks for helping; but when you spot someone, let them struggle to try and lift the weight before you so much as even touch the bar.”

A couple of weeks later, though, it was a very different story. One of the best spotters I have ever met was in the gym, and he happily agreed to spot me on another attempt at 350. He was my spotter for both 340 and 345, so I knew that he knew what he was doing.

The lift went perfectly. I am now setting my sights on 355.

A great spotter has a skill that makes a person stronger. When a lift is taking place, and it is clear that the lifter is not quite strong enough, he will just barely touch the bar, taking maybe a pound or two off, making the lifter struggle, yet struggle safely, to get the bar up. In that process a lifter becomes stronger and stronger with each attempt until he is finally able to make the lift.

As you may surmise, there is a point to this, a point that goes far beyond power lifting.

On two separate occasions in the New Testament Jesus miraculously fed an unprepared and at risk multitude: once a multitude of 5,000 men plus women and children and once a multitude of 4,000 men plus women and children. And yet he is also the same God that inspired the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which says “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat,” and the words of Solomon in Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard [the lazy man] desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”
It is like this throughout Scripture; in some passages we see people being given needed food and supplies, in others we see them commanded to work and condemned for any laziness on their part. It is the age old balancing act (and often conflict) between hand outs or a hand up. It is the same equation in view when we consider the skill of a great spotter in a gym.

A few years ago I watched a man/monster give a power lifting demonstration. He benched press 600 pounds – and then put 15 more pounds on to lift it. We were all simultaneously stunned and inspired. His spotter, also a man/monster, stood right behind him on the first lift, and after the handoff, never touched the bar. But on the second lift there was a disaster; we all heard a loud “pop!” and saw the bar fall toward his chest. His right shoulder had gotten injured. Immediately his spotter grabbed the bar, two others grabbed it on either end, and it was quickly back in place.

He would never have touched the bar unless it was a real emergency. It was his job to help the lifter get stronger, so he could lift it himself.

There are so many people who truly need help, and there always will be. In Matthew 26:11 Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you.” A compassionate heart always wants to reach out and help; the question is, how best to do it? There will be times when an immediate hand out truly is needed and warranted. There will also be times when a hand out is actually the very last thing needed, and a hand up is needed instead. There have been times we have bought groceries for people, and there have been times we have said, “We have several hours of deep cleaning that needs doing; come do that and we will take you to the grocery store and load you up with groceries.” There have also been times we taught people how to dress for a job interview, and then spent hours driving them from place to place looking for jobs.

I suppose what it boils down to is this: when helping people, never make the immediate need the ultimate goal. You may start with that, but always make the ultimate goal helping people to get strong enough not just to lift their own weight, but to then turn and help lift the weight of others.

Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org