Tennis and the Kingdom

6 Dec

I’ve been challenged these past two weeks on the subject of how to live out Kingdom of God values in sports, namely for me, in tennis.

I’m enrolled in a tennis tournament at my tennis club.  The first match I played was against a 15-year old, Clara, who came with her father.  We started the match, and after 2 points he was already calling me a cheater!

What to do?  Since I’ve been playing tennis, I’ve never been called a cheater.  No, not once!  Of course, it didn’t feel good.  How does one respond to such an accusation?  Well, I tried to explain my point of view, but he wasn’t listening.  He was right, and I was wrong.

I won the match 6/1 6/1.   I was obviously the better player, but I was still troubled in my heart by our argument. 

I had a whole week to get over the scene, and I was looking forward to my next match.  I was playing against a 23-year old young woman who had 3 people of her family by her side, cheering her on.  I started out not playing very well, and she won the first set easily 6/1.  As we started the second set things were still slanted in her favor.  My forehand and serve weren’t working, and her serve was better than most I’ve seen.  And she had a great forehand attack.  Then, suddenly,  the obnoxious dad of last week showed up at the courts.  And everything changed. 

He made a scene, pretty much came onto our court while we were still playing a point.  And kicked us off the court.  (To make a long story short, there had been a problem with the court reservations.)   We were so troubled by this ugliness.  I was ready to throw in the towel.  My opponent, Stephanie, was clearly the better player and was going to win.  I was ready to give her the match.  My heart was no longer in the match.  I was angry and frustrated.  I was living “the dark side of tennis”, the ugliness of people who have no fairplay sense at all.  Unfortunately this is something I have seen pop its ugly head up more than once these past years since I first picked up the racket.  I’ve even seen myself go towards the dark side.  It’s quite humbling!

Stephanie and her family very graciously convinced me to finish the match, and we were able to play, after waiting impatiently in the entryway until a court opened up for us, about 1/2 hour.  By that time, Stephanie had obviously lost her momentum.  She seemed to have lost that wonderful serve and forehand attack that were so successful in the first set.  I went on to win the next two sets 6/4 6/4 and the match.  But I didn’t feel too jubilant.  My victory, I felt, was tainted. 

How does one live out Kingdom values in such hostility?  I know we say, “it’s not winning or losing that matters, but how you play the game”.  But I find it sometimes challenging to even play the game in such an atmosphere of anger and meanness.  I need God’s grace to even play, much less lose or win graciously!  Help, Lord, give me your strength of character, your wisdom, your patience, in the face of such things.  It is my prayer that you be glorified through me!

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One Response to “Tennis and the Kingdom”

  1. Shawn Callahan December 7, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    I feel that love is born from, and dwells in, the heart. Worldly clamors might serve to distract us from the truth, but your concern for being fair not only shows your love for the sport, but love for the people who play.
    People are going to inevitably be flawed, but when we turn to God and trust in his wisdom, we can be sure that love will triumph over conflict.
    Keep on striving for excellence, and let the scoffers scoff. Gods gifts will be celebrated in the Kingdom!

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