As a teenager, I loved to play volleyball. There was something uniquely beautiful about the bruises on my forearms, and the ability to yell to your teammates “mine” as you scramble to hit the ball and make it soar back over the net. I especially enjoyed the ability to serve breathlessly into a group of women and yell, “ace” as it landed directly in the middle of their court unchallenged by any of my competitors. Although my competitive nature came out strongly on a volleyball court, it has played well into other aspects of my life: drive for good grades in highschool and college and the meeting of my career aspirations and goals.
Frequently, now as a mom, whose husband is the sole income provider, and I am alone with my kids while he works 45-60 hour weeks just to make ends meet, I find myself competing with myself to beat my own score at things. For example, on Sunday mornings, I try to get all four kids and myself ready for church in less time than 1 hr and 20 minutes. So that, one day, I can attempt to have a peaceful Sunday morning and a leisurely coffee before my husband comes to pick us up for church.
I have yet to conquer it, but I’m training to make it happen.
Additionally, I will set the timer on the oven for 15 minutes and attempt to cross off my chore to-do list: dishes, one load of laundry folded and put away, vacuum the hallway, sweep under the highchairs. Or I’ll set it for 10 minutes and see if I can conquer the same amount of stuff in the less time. My reward: a shower while my kids nap. Sounds pathetic right? And I really cannot believe that I’m admitting this! (I’m not even sure my hubby knows). Most days it works–somedays it doesn’t.
Sometimes though, if I’m honest, competition isn’t really that fun. This week felt like a big game of unequally matched dodgeball. Someone on friday morning, lined up a few balls on a perfectly straight gym line and blew the whistle and the balls were being thrown hard on our side of the court for about 5 days straight: someones words had hurt, we found out a friend’s marriage fell apart, close friends sharing in our living room extreme struggles they are facing, my husbands loss of a job, and in the midst of all that strife we experienced the joy of becoming an aunt and uncle. Before any of these “metaphoric” balls could knock us emotionally or physically out, something strange happened.
It was almost like God hit slow motion on this game of unfair dodgeball and was beckoning us to fight with a different set of rules. We began to notice a small metaphoric snare drum sounding in our midst. rat-ta-ta-tat.
He began to call from our arsenal the things we had been training with over the past year:
We began to pray on our knees, with words, in silence, yelling, while standing, and relying on scripture for the prayers we couldn’t utter. Psalm 25:17, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” rat-ta-ta-tat-tat-tat. The snare drum was getting LOUDER.
We began to trust in the Shepherd. Psalm 23:1-4 “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me in quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.” The ra-ta-ta-tat-tat-tat rat-tat-tat was getting LOUDER still.
Then we began to seek community and encouragement from friends and family. Hebrews 10:25 “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do, but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big day approaching”. rat-ta-ta-tat-tat rat-ta-tat-at-ta-tat is just about resounding throughout our beings.
Then we did something that in the midst of strife we do not do very often, we enjoyed peace: peace with our situation, peace with God, peace with someone whose words had hurt, peace in knowing that we were taken care of, peace in the future, peace in the present, and peace in our marriage (something that usually in the midst of trials takes the biggest blow). Colossians 3: 15, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.” By now, the snare drum is screaming RAT-TAT-ATAT-TAT-TA-TAT!