Tennis Lessons

Tennis Lessons

By Stephanie Bennett

One of the joys I have in life is the ability to play tennis. It's such a fun and enduring sport. One doesn't need to be a superstar to play this game, and it's a great way to stretch the old bod, keep the balance and agility well oiled, and have a bundle of laughs with some friends. Even at this . . . ripening age of mine I am BLEST to be able to run around the court several mornings a week before work and act like a kid. The endorphins kick in, and I remember that I am more than a machine pumping out productivity each day behind a lectern or computer screen. Once in a while I even find the Lord using the time on the court to teach me little spiritual lessons. This happened last week while playing with a new friend I'll call Kelly.

Kelly looks like an "American Girl doll" from the frontier. Have you ever seen those pretty little things? They are dressed in period-style clothing and come with some neat historical accessories. They are the farthest thing from a "Barbie," and although a bit pricey, they are a nice "doll-play" alternative for young girls. Anyway, Kelly looks just like the "Kirsten," doll from the American West. Hair the color of honey, a bouncy ponytail and eyes the color of the ocean -- Kelly is perfectly fit and an unstoppable late twenty-something.

Get the picture? She was playing with ME! God bless her.

Anyway, we had much fun. Somehow our playing was really compatible and we enjoyed cheering for each other's strategically placed shots, shrugged off the unforced errors, and got along very well on the clay.

The incident that struck me occurred around 9 a.m. on a Tuesday at the tennis club, and let me tell you, the fitness center's steam room has NOTHIN' on the July sun in South Florida! As Kelly and I tore up the court, tiny beads of sweat slowly broke into rivulets pouring down my face. I squinted, barely seeing through the drops of stinging perspiration streaming into my eyes. Suddenly, there was the ball coming straight at my face. If I didn't move quickly I was sure to have "WILSON" tattooed to my forehead. In a flash, I popped a poach shot over the net and made the point. Yay! We high-fived, and I returned to the net. Breathing heavily, I wiped the moisture from my forehead with my shirtsleeve and thought about how it's getting more and more challenging to keep up in the summer sun. I looked back at Kelly at the base line and saw a calm, dry, bright face getting ready to toss the ball into a serve. Was I ever that spunky? Dear GOD!

The next thing you know we're involved in a rally. Kelly smashed the ball with a most excellent groundstroke placed deeply at the base line. As I watched for our opponent's return placement, their faces turned from tennis to horror. They ran to the net in a stop play and I turned to see Kelly flat out on the court. Quickly, I ran to her and helped her up. Blue-gray dirt covered this perfect child from head to toe. The crumbly clay was caked on all over her arms and legs, up and down her back, even across her chest and chin. For whatever unknown reason this perfectly balanced and agile young woman lost her balance in the follow-through and tumbled like a novice gymnast doing a somersault all over center court. My goodness! So much damage from just a simple day on the courts. Thank God, Kelly was fine, --- nothing broken or sprained ---- but she did sustain some cuts and bruises on her knees. We brushed her off, got her some water, and two minutes later she was back at the service line.

Later on in the day I thought about her other options. She could have gone home to nurse her wounds and her pride. Probably the most difficult thing about taking a spill like that on the tennis court is the lack of grace. It hurts your pride! You think you're "in control," but suddenly, out of the blue, something takes you down. Ever been there? I sure have. I've looked like a clod many-a-time, and would always rather crawl in a hole like a hermit crab than stand and face the music in this minor key. In the long run though, it's much better to stay in the game, get up, brush yourself off, and get back into the action.

There are other options, of course. When we fall we could just sit on the bench the rest of our lives, never taking the risk of looking like a clod again. Or we could leave the court completely, take a dive under our covers and decide to opt out of the game of life until further notice. God gives us a will to choose any of these options, or to create new ones of our own design. One of the wonders of walking with Him is knowing that as we choose to get back up, wipe ourselves off, and press through the fall, God is with us, and He is faithful. He WILL restore and enliven. He WILL give us strength to walk in the ways of righteousness and peace. He is there. Truly, really, and in actuality, God is there, rooting for us, cheering us on, squeezing the water bottle into our mouths, encouraging us to press on every step of the way.

Taken down by sin or stress lately? It's never to late in life to get back in the game.


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