My Platform as I Pass Through
(volleyball puns sold separately)
If you haven’t learned this by now, I would like to pause and say that I have traveled a winding, confusing, road to get to where I am now. I am not writing about this as if it’s my last stop. This isn’t an “I made it” speech, but rather encouragement for those who feel like their engine has stalled.
In May of 2016, I joined Auburn Volleyball as the Director of Volleyball Operations after two years of not having a job followed by two years of being a head coach at two different programs. Looking at the road behind me, it is surely a miracle that I got back into sports at all. My head coaching experience and connection to the staff at Auburn gave me just enough of a resume to qualify for the Director of Operations job. By 2016, I had been living in Auburn because Josh already worked in AU Athletics, and had been commuting to my previous jobs. I was so thankful to be working in the town that I lived in. Things were streamlining for our family just in time. Josh had just graduated from Auburn, but would not be able to take on more than student worker hours unless I could help with the kids more. I was also not really sure how I was going to have my second child in October while working a job that was an hour away from home. Needless to say, I ran toward the opportunity to work for Auburn University.
However, the job was not what I thought. I was in charge of logistics. Some people cringe at that word… I used to be one of them. I didn’t want to worry about travel and food and equipment, I wanted to COACH. I wanted to help people grow in the game of volleyball by becoming tougher mentally and emotionally! I was so bogged down with tasks that I felt like I never helped anyone do anything. I was jealous of our staff members that were in coaching roles while fully believing that I was awful at the role I was in. I constantly told myself that I was in a role that I didn’t belong in.
At the end of the 2017 season, I truly considered quitting my job. I was tapped out emotionally. I wanted so much for our volleyball program and was mad and bitter that we didn’t follow the route I wanted. I didn’t feel respected and I could tell that my emotionally charged comments in meetings made people not want to be around me. Then, I heard God whisper you don’t have the right to quit something until you try it my way. When the season was over, I spent the entire New Year soul-searching and surrounding my job in prayer. I leaned on Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew that I had not sought God during trouble. I just fueled my own fire. I told God that I wanted to be done with that because I not only hated my job, but I also hated who I had become.
The act of seeking God opened my eyes to four big truths:
To mimic Jesus, we have to embrace the heart of a servant. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant . . . even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26, 28. Jesus paused to wash the feet of His disciples to show that no pride lived within Him. As much as my pride got in the way of admitting that I had pride, I eventually had to tell myself the truth: a big part of your problem, Paige, is that you think you are too good/experienced for the role you’re in. The truth about logistics is that they literally set up the day for success or failure! It’s unbelievably important! I started to change my thinking from “ugh. Why do I have to call the hotels today?” to “okay, what can I do to make sure all of our players and coaches get enough sleep tonight?” When traveling or the schedule was seamless and predictable, my whole team breathed a sigh of relief.
All authority is put in place by God. Maaaaannnnnn, this flew all over me. The ugly truth about where my mind was is that I had strong opinions about everything we did because I thought I knew better than my boss. Romans 13 says “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” So even if your boss isn’t a Christian or even a decent person, he/she has been placed over you under the authority of God. If you don’t respect the person, respect the title! My boss is an incredibly decent person so that wasn’t even my issue. I just disagreed out loud without respect for his title or his knowledge. Ironically, when I think of respect of authority, I actually think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As the most famous civil rights leader in the history of our nation, Dr. King made his mark on the world by respecting the law and even being abused by it. Regardless of how terribly he was treated, he rose up by firmly and respectfully telling the law NO MORE. He mimicked Jesus and Paul by being jailed standing for the rights of others. He demanded equality under the law and the same laws for all citizens. Dr. King respected all authority but feared none of it. Look what our nation is because of him!
No tasks or to-do list can control how I interact with people around me. The lie I believed for a long time was that I could only make a lasting impact if I were in a coaching role. No one would believe that I knew anything about volleyball if I couldn’t actively teach it. When I began to seek the heart of God, I heard the truth in Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” This passage really hit me in the face hard because the imagery is that God himself might actually say this to me at the end of my time here on earth. So, if I didn’t steward the small things toward the Kingdom of Heaven, I will not be called a good and faithful servant. I WANT THAT. Suddenly, none of it looked small or unimportant anymore. Instead, it all looked like a labor of love for the people I cared about.
God picked me for His team before I knew how to play. 1 John 2:27 “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” The anointing over my life (even if I am just beginning my faith journey) supersedes any earthly title. God put me right here, right now, for these girls on this team this year. Before I had the skills or experience to do my job well, Jesus had already picked me for it. He looked at me and decided being a Director of Volleyball Operations at Auburn University would be a great platform to lead people to the Kingdom of God. When I responded with fear and doubt, He waved me off and reminded me that He had all that sorted out.
If I start with love, all the steps walk toward God. Even when I am uncertain about our vision or if I feel tension in our offices, starting with love keeps me focused. I begin my tasks with “I love these kids so how can I set them up for success?” or “Is there something I can take off of someone’s plate?” When I think of my real friends that really love me, they have all shouldered something for me or pulled me out of the way of a trap because they love me. What an honor it would be if people say “I really appreciated Paige because I truly felt like she loved me.”
So, be encouraged if your engine has stalled! I once heard John Maxwell preach a sermon on four types of people: those that say “what’s mine is mine and I’m going to keep it.” Those that say “what’s yours is mine and I’m going to take it.” Those that say “what’s mine is ours and I’m going to share it.” I was willing to rest on the last one thinking it was pretty good, then he challenged us further: “what’s mine is not mine, and I’m going to manage it.” If we took every human interaction, every dollar in our pocket, and every item on a to-do list as a way to further God’s Kingdom, the task would not change, but our attitude would. I want to remain in cheerful prayer over this for the rest of my days! We are not just passing through, we are taking people with us too!