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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Racquetball Grace

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"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed..” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

God sent me racquetball at one of the hard points in my life.

While in a very difficult ministry setting, feeling bruised and opposed at many turns, a friend asked me to play racquetball.

“Racquetball? I’m not some kid who can take up a new sport just like that,” I thought. “I’m drained of energy by these constant battles." I also remembered my father’s trophy-winning tennis playing and my own less than adequate performance in that game. I resisted her and resisted her and then one day, nervously, I went to the court.

It took me a while to get the hang of the game. My friend had played in tournaments – she even knew how to play “cutthroat” (three people running around in the small, enclosed court – now who would do that in their right mind?) She can serve the ball like nobody’s business, make the ball ricochet wildly off of several walls, slam it off the back wall all the way to the front even when the ball is just barely off the floor and almost out of play.

Some days, I bristled inside – “She's playing too rough – she knows I’m new at this. Does she have to serve that hard?”

Other days, I would think, “I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s too hard for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be any good.” After all, I was already weary and discouraged. Why feel it also in this arena?

But…I kept going.

I remember the day when I began to be able to slam the ball off the back wall up to the front or when the ball would bounce near the backcourt and come flying off the back wall – how I got the hang of running forward, waiting, and hitting the ball forward. There had been a time when I would have hung back with no sense of the forward angle or momentum of the ball.

I recall when my friend quoted her pastor, also a racquetball player as saying, “You control the ball, don’t let the ball control you.”

As I said, I was in a difficult time. I began to see the parallel between the game and my role as a pastor. “As you are learning not to give up on this court, so I am teaching you not to give up in the work I have given you,“ I felt the Lord say.

Now, I did not take this to mean that He would never move me on. What I took it to mean is that while there, I should persevere in being Christ-like, loving, forgiving, trusting God, knowing He is good despite the roughness of the “game.” I took it to mean that I should turn the other cheek, pray for those who were harsh, and remain firm about the truth, without being spiteful or arrogant myself.

“Control the ball, don’t let it control you” became “Don’t be distracted by circumstances.  Keep on being Mine and reflecting Me by My help – more than ever.  That’s how you “win” and how you win others to Me.”

As a side lesson, it also became clear about what it means to work in your area of giftedness. This less than adequate tennis player had become a very comfortable racquetball player. If you are blocked in one area of work or ministry, don’t be discouraged. It may be that you will shine in time – or perhaps in a new location. It may mean that your giftedness is in another arena and will be revealed by God in the future.

But most of all, never, never, never give up. God loves you, has a place for you, and wants you to persevere when the sport is rough so that you gain strength and courage. As I write of relatively light difficulties in ministry, however, we know there are many engaged in ministry struggles that do involve, as Hebrews says, “the shedding of blood.” (Hebrews 12:4) These are the real battles that must be endured and may we remember and aid these brothers and sisters around the world in every way that we can. (Hebrews 13:3)

Lord, grant those in ministry, who may be feeling extreme pressure or defeat, a fresh wave of encouragement and hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

 

 

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