Wednesday, August 10, 2011

View from the Sidelines


The lush, grassy expanse was fragrant and inviting under the not-too-hot August sunshine, just begging for bare feet to run and jump and play there. Games of catch with balls of various shapes and sizes ensued, played by people of even more varied shapes and sizes. After a huge family dinner to celebrate my mother-in-love's 70th birthday, everyone decided to try out the new volleyball net brought along to the resort where we were celebrating.

Oh the games people play, and the joy they get from playing them!

. . . at least some of them do . . . although I have rarely been one of them.

From as early as I can remember I have loved to
 sports of all kinds.  Growing up the delighted daughter of a football and basketball coach, sports were as much a fixture in our everyday lives as the couch in our living room or the kitchen sink. They tell me I went to my first basketball game when I was two months old and by the time I started school I had spent untold happy hours at football fields, gymnasiums and in front of our black & white TV enjoying the wonderful, endlessly unpredictable drama of sport!

It was somewhere along the way in elementary school that I made a deeply disappointing discovery--I was NOT a natural athlete. All through school, what had previously been a pure love affair with sports was replaced with a new and unwelcome love-hate relationship. I still LOVED to watch, but I hated to play. I wanted to be as good at playing as I was at watching, and the truth was, I just wasn't. Maybe even more devastating than my appalling lack of athletic prowess, was the realization that I didn't have the strong internal competitive fire all great athletes have. Oh, I always hoped to win, but I didn't
HUNGER to win and while I never wanted to lose, if we did, it wasn't the end of the world. Ask any real athlete and they'll tell you they ALWAYS want to win, and they HATE to lose more than anything. I didn't have "it"--I didn't have what it took to be the kind of athlete I had always so admired, the kind I wished I could be.

All of that added up to a quiet dread and a painful knot in the pit of my stomach every time I was put in a position to play a game in PE. I couldn't stand the thought of seeing a fly ball coming my way and the pressure of trying to make a catch I could see beautifully in my head, but didn't have the skill to make in reality. The prospect of running a relay race and being too slow to help my team, knowing I would let them down was enough to put me into a cold sweat before the race had even begun. Heaven forbid that I have to take a buzzer beating shot to win the game--all I wanted was to get the ball out of my hands and let someone else be the hero or the goat! Seeing the disapproving looks when I cost my team a win was just about the worst thing I could think of.

Despite the anxiety, I did play volleyball in elementary school and junior high, and played one horrific and tear-soaked season of basketball as a painfully self-conscious 8th-grader, but that was about the extent of my career in team sports.

 . . .  as an athlete, that is . . .

Clearly I was not cut out to be on the court as a ball player, but I knew I didn't want to stay on the sidelines either, so I got involved as a scorekeeper. Now
THIS I was good at!! If there was one thing I knew, it was how to WATCH a basketball game! I had been keeping stats for my dad's teams since I was old enough to understand what was going on, so running the score sheet was right up my alley! I could even do it under pressure!! I was the head coach's "starting player" when it came to score keeping for the biggest games of the Valley Championship Tournament hosted at my high school my senior year. He knew my love for the game, and had confidence that I would get it right.  For me, it was like getting the nod to be the one to take the last second, must-make, 3-point shot that would win the game, only this time, I WANTED
the ball in my hands!!

. . . but I digress . . . pardon my reminiscing . . .

That was just a glimpse into the flood of thoughts that ran through my mind when my brother-in-law started organizing the volleyball game and said, "Shaunie, you're playing too!"

"No," I said, holding up (hiding behind) my camera, "I'm here to take the pictures!"

He's not really the type to take no for an answer, so he said I could sub in after I took some pictures.

I snapped away, happy to have a legitimate reason to stay on the sidelines, and secretly hoped no one would think to sub me in. As I watched and tried to capture the action, to capture the playful spirit that went with the good-natured ribbing, something unexpected snuck up on me . . . a desire to play. I actually started to WANT to leave the sidelines and be a part of the game. I argued back and forth with myself, but I finally got up enough courage to say it out loud, "Can I play?"

My contribution to the game was completely forgettable as volleyball goes, hampered as I was by a bum foot and just being so incredibly out of practice, but I did have one nice bump to set up a good return that was pure muscle memory from the practice I put in as a 13-year old.  That felt great! What felt even better was knowing that I didn't let the moment pass me by and I wouldn't have to live with the gnawing refrain of "I wish I had . . ." running through my head forever afterward. Instead, it's the feel of the ball lifting off my outstretched arms into gorgeous blue sky and not just the view from the sideline that I'll get to carry with me always.

Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),
    16Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.
    17Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:15-17 AMP

Whether it is something as simple as a family volleyball game, or an opportunity to invest in eternal Kingdom glory, I want to be in the game! I want the ball in my hands!

I want so much more than a view from the sidelines!
Don't you?

Do you have regrets about things you wish you had done when you had the chance?
How about great memories or big successes when you seized the moment?
What opportunity is calling your name right now?

Joining Emily for:


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