Pastor’s ponderings

Alright everyone, it’s time for another pondering about pickleball and how it intersects with our faith journey.  Recently I was reading an article that said something to the effect of – beginners practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.  Read that again (or perhaps three or four times) and let it really sink in for a moment, for this is the reality for just about every sport I can think of.  Beginning and recreational players don’t put in nearly the amount of time practicing as do more advanced players and professionals, perhaps a couple hours a week instead of several hours per day.  Beginners are just learning the variety of strokes, shots, and plays necessary to compete.  Professionals are perfecting those same strokes, shots, and plays so that they are always at the top of their competitive game.

            The same applies for our Christian life.  Those at the early stages of their faith journey are just trying to figure things out; they’re still learning how to play the game, and they’ll practice the necessary disciplines periodically, ultimately celebrating when they have some sort of success.  Yet, for those who have gone deeper in their commitment, those isolated achievements are not enough; they instead strive for regular success in all that they do in the name of the Lord, working in the power of the Holy Spirit that they cannot do any wrong.  This takes lots of practice. Early on mistakes will be made, but with each and every attempt, things get better and better until the point that, like an athlete’s muscle memory, there is no way to miss.

            In church lingo, this is what is called sanctification – the process of growing in our relationship with God to the point that we are perfected in the divine image in which we were created – being at the top of our game, unable to error in any way.  Yet, the key is, we have to work at it.  It’s not something that will just happen overnight.  We have to put in the time and effort to get there, just as a professional athlete does.  And the more effort we put in, the more progress we will make.

            I’ve been playing pickleball for several years now, and while I have gotten better than when I first started, I still make a lot of mistakes That muscle memory has not yet formed to the point I can make a shot and get it right all the time.  The reason is, I only put in a couple hours a week into playing, and rarely do I get the opportunity to practice.  (It’s even worse when I’ve had to take a couple of weeks off due to schedule conflicts).    How do you think my faith journey would be if I did the same thing?  If I only prayed, read the Bible, engaged in Christian conferencing with others, and served those God has called me to be with but a couple hours a week, how much longer would it take to develop the relationships I am called to have as a Christian than if I were to invest hours per day in the same endeavors?

            I have found that the more time I invest in what we might call “player development,” the better Christian I (and you) can become.  The more we train ourselves in The Way, the more it becomes engrained into who we are and what we do.  Eventually, it becomes such a part of us that we just naturally respond to the next play that must occur, the next opportunity to serve God and neighbor in the world around us.

            So, perhaps all of our ponderings should be – am I playing Christian just enough to try and get it right, or am I doing all that I can do to make sure I can’t get it wrong?

                                                                                    Always pondering,

                                                                                    Pastor Steve

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