I am not much of an athlete. I am competitive, but not an athlete. My earliest experience with organized sports occurred in seventh and eighth grade track. My parents allowed me to participate in our track program and I actually performed very well. I ran dashes – that is what they were called at the time. The 50 yard dash and the 100 yard dash were my specialties and then I ran a leg of the 400 yard relay race.
I did well in those races and actually broke the school records in both. That was a long time ago. In my ninth grade year, our high school started a girls volleyball program. I played. This is when it occurred to me that perhaps I don’t have the heart of an athlete. Specifically, I hated throwing myself across the floor in a full body slide to hit a volleyball. I didn’t think that was a good use of my body.
I remember one game in particular when the coach put me in as a starter. I think she was being nice. I was in the back row, left corner. The game was getting ready to begin and I was standing looking at the crowd and my opponents and I was, well, thinking. Thinking about many things, but not the game. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, my coach is yelling at me “get inside the lines!” But I was completely oblivious to her concern. At end of the season I received the “Most Oblivious” award and a set of ear plugs. Volleyball is not my thing.
As a high school student, our church youth group had a girl’s softball team. We were pretty tough, at least we thought. I played left field and I did reasonably well for what was expected of me. About 15 years later, I was recruited to play softball for another women’s church team. I absolutely hated it. My heart is not in competitive sports and I ended up on the bench more than anywhere else. The one time I was put in to run (I have no idea why the coach decided to do that), I slid in loose gravel running to second and I still have scars on my knee from shredding it on the coarse gravel. Softball is not my thing.
A few years ago our family went to Costa Rica for Christmas. One afternoon we decided to play tennis together. Ryan and Emily, our oldest two children, played on one side while Dave, Katlyn, our youngest daughter, and I took the opposite side. Playing a bit of “doubles,” Emily and Ryan consistently outscored Dave, Katlyn and I. At one point someone asked what the score was and Dave responded, “30/Frustrating.” It was completely by accident, but we collapsed on the court in uncontrollable laughter. It was an honest misspeak, but showed the true condition of the game. Tennis is not my thing.
You might ask what draws me to attempt playing in competitive sports? Nothing anymore. But there is something I genuinely love about team work and the cooperative effort it takes to accomplish a win. Athletics is often used in scripture, especially by Paul, as an illustration of spiritual life. So there is something to learn.
In 2009, my son’s senior year, the boy’s basketball team had a spectacular year. They began the season well, but no one had any idea how well they would do. They kept winning and crowds grew. As the crowds grew I noticed that not everyone was there to cheer them on. Some had come in the hopes of watching them lose their first game. We went to nearly every game and developed an attachment to the team and pride in their winning streak. The team ended the regular season 20-0. Amazing!
The effect of these games on me was something I didn’t fully grasp until they entered the sectional playoffs undefeated. The first post-season game was a sell out crowd. So many people came to watch the 20-0 team meet their final opponent in the championship game. To say our team was not favored by the crowd is an understatement. The other team was unafraid and ready to play. Insults and derision were hurled at our team from the moment the two teams hit the floor. It was awful. That night the team lost for the first time all year.
But the thing that really stands out to me from that night is my own reaction. I was dismayed. The jeers and taunts from the opposition devastated me. I took them to heart. I watched the same team I had watched all year fall apart. I could see the guys on the floor with their heads down. I saw them gather on the bench. I saw them meet with the coach. I saw them talk as a team. But I could only hear the adversary.
A couple of years later I had the opportunity to speak with one of the players from that team. His perspective was quite different than mine. He had the advantage of being on the floor, hearing the coach, his teammates, the supporters. He left knowing that he had played his best, but also knowing this was the game they lost. He wasn’t devastated because he had his team. He didn’t listen to or respond to the heckles of the adversary.
Too often I listen to the adversary and I live in a place of doubt and discouragement. I underestimate what I am able to accomplish and believe that I am not enough. Not surprising, I have a difficult time.
Other times I listen to those who are for me. This includes not only my family and friends, but my Savior, Jesus. It is at these times that the clouds lift and the sun comes out. Difficulties become manageable, and I accomplish what I didn’t believe I could do.
I don’t always win, life doesn’t always produce roses. But even in the losses, I learn and I win.
I agree that it’s so easy to listen to our adversaries. Whether it is the voices in our heads, coworkers chanting negativity or the enemy of our souls speaking words of derision – it all sounds so believable somehow! Turning it off can be a task of epic proportions.
But listening to our God makes all the difference. He isn’t loud and boisterous; he isn’t clamoring and showy. The Old Testament writer says he comes in a still small voice and, unless we are listening for it, we just might miss it.
Moses spoke these words of wisdom to the children of Israel when they were preparing to face one of the most challenging events of their lives. You can read it in Deuteronomy 31:6. Here it is from The Message version:
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”Deuteronomy 31:6
You know, I think that is what Jesus would say to us today if he were standing among us. That is what I believe he says to you if you are facing the biggest challenge of your life. He is right there with you. He won’t leave you and he won’t let you down. And you are going to be all right!
Until next time….
May the Lord bless you and protect you.Numbers 6:24-26
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.