January 8, 2012

Keep Away

The boys came to us carrying a basketball that had lost its bounce. They were hoping that we had brought an air pump. Gail knew that we had and she ran up the stairs to fetch it.

The boys squirmed around and stood on anxious toes watching her get the hand pump out of the plastic packaging. Their impatience was evident as she fiddled with the needle, finally fastening it onto the pump’s nose.

Then they swapped. One of the boys took the pump and Gail took the ball. Screwing up his face as he pushed the lever, the ten-year-old forced air into the ball until it was taut. Success. The boy's faces brightened. This was a good day.

Gail tossed the ball over to one of the boys and I tried to intercept. It bounced on a concrete walk and they took out after it. One shouted over his shoulder to me, “You’re in the middle.”

Copyright Cheryl Weaver 2011 used by permission.

I have to say, it had been awhile since I had played keep away, and at first I was pretty good. I think they may have underestimated my ability and my competitive nature. But soon they were on to me, and their honed skills at the game overtook my drive. I caught the ball once and got to move to the outside, but once they got me back to the middle, the game was over. I was stuck.

I thought later how many times in my life I have lost at the game of keep away. Not the game I played with the boys in Haiti, but the game I have played in relationships with people.

For years, I thought I had done an adequate job of masking the guarded me. But looking back, I was in denial. My attitude, my independence, and my lack of vulnerability signaled to those around me that it was better to just keep away.

I played the keep away game with my friends, with my family and even my husband. Worst of all, I attempted to play the game with God. 

When I was younger, my game face manifested itself in always needing to have the last word---to always be right, win every argument---no matter the cost. Later in life, my message became less confrontational. I became more aloof, detached, and non-committal.

I have made progress over the past few years, but old habits are hard to break. By the grace of God, I won't be playing keep away anymore.

As I wrote last week, while I was in Haiti just before Christmas, God revealed that I don't need a plan for my life, I need a vision. As I pray for the revelation, undoubtedly, the vision will include me living life with people in community. 

The boys called me into their game that day at Canaan and I didn’t hesitate to join them. I loved playing even though I lost. Could I learn to jump in, to not be hesitant, when it comes to living out my life in Christ? 

In order to fulfill God’s will for me concerning community, I can’t be hanging back calculating the cost, considering if I am willing to risk staying in the middle for a day, a week, or maybe for the rest of my life. 

The middle can be a daunting place. It is a place where there is so little control. In order to step into life, I have to be willing to risk that I may never get my hands on the ball.

I want to be all right with that. Someone will always have the ball. And it doesn't have to be me.

Let me play----even if it is in the middle.

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