Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kickball and the Kingdom of Heaven

“Hey -- thanks for getting me home,” Dustin said as I walked back toward the group.
“Mm, yeah, you’re welcome,” I mumbled lamely, utterly confused. 
By the time I had reached the others, I realized that Dustin’s message was hardly as cryptic as it seemed.  After our church’s Palm Sunday worship service in a neighborhood park, our Sunday School class had accepted a kickball challenge from the youth group.  The air was warm but not oppressive, and our whole congregation was enjoying the fine April Sunday as much as any festival.  The game itself was a merry affair; the youth were full of vim and bravado, and we, being both moderate Baptists and twenty-somethings, had chosen the ironic team name, “No Mercy.”  There was lots of laughter and joking from all sides, and several spectators cheered for our respective teams.
I was trying very hard to have fun.  
This picture--a shot of me trying desperately
to catch a frisbee--should make it clear
why team sports aren't really my forte. 
Team activities have always made me nervous, either because I fear disappointing my teammates (if the activity is volleyball, for example), or because I am afraid my teammates will disappoint me (if the activity has anything to do with my GPA).  The root of the problem should be obvious: I have always seen these group activities in terms of myself, and whether I will appear excellent or foolish, talented or inept. 

As a teenager, therefore, I would have abstained from kickball altogether, keeping a dignified but lonely distance from the game.  For years, I have trained myself to participate in frightening things, and I have discovered (thanks be to God) that self-consciousness will wither if you don’t feed it with attention. Nevertheless, I still feel a kind of catch in my stomach when asked to play a game, whether kickball or Candyland.  I was proud of myself, therefore, for joining in on Sunday, and even more proud when I managed to kick the ball well enough to make it to first base.  When the next person from our team made a successful kick, I ran for second but was caught.   It was as I walked back from the field that Dustin passed me and thanked me for getting him home. I had been so preoccupied with my own bolt to first base that I had not realized Dustin had been waiting for a chance to run to home plate, and my kick had given him that chance.  
I started this blog because ideas about home troubled and teased me throughout college, and these ideas have only become more complex and promising in the last five years.  I wasn’t expecting to learn anything about home during a Sunday kickball match, but as “No Mercy” battled the Calvary Youth, I found myself in the midst of a little parable.  
I don’t mean to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is exactly like a game of kickball, but Sunday’s match reminded me how rarely we see the ways our actions affect others.  It is good to know that whether or not we feel ourselves to be at home, we might be helping others to a good place. It is good to know that even when we aren’t trying to be good or charitable or hospitable, God can use us in spite of ourselves. 

Can you think of a time when you learned that your actions had brought some good or benefit to others without you realizing it?

1 comment:

  1. So wonderful! So many things I want to say, but I will not be baited by the "insta-net" and I will reflect more first.
    I will simply say this: We are all blessed by the fact that, in your remarkable intellectual endeavors, you cut corners by leaving out sports vocabulary from your curriculum, and now your sports commentary sounds like poetry.