Saturday, May 29, 2021

Out of Practice


North Fargo Softball Complex
I enjoy every season. This late spring moving into meteorological summer (June 1), I noticed a great deal of activity on fields and courts. Memories of playing softball on the farm and later in a church league brought both a smile and a frown. The smile: multiple generations playing on the large farm lawn enjoying an afternoon together. The frown: catching a wickedly fast throw into 1st base which dislocated my thumb. Who said church league was not intense? I have not thrown a ball nor swung a bat in decades.

Courts in a city park

The game of tennis began during the second year of college in south Texas. The weather allowed for playing every month. There were numerous people ready to play. Courts were available on campus and in near by city parks. I was pleased at my improvement and enjoyment of the game. Great exercise along with hand-eye coordination. Since those youthful days my time on a tennis court has been sporadic. I recently enjoyed time swinging a racket and chasing the yellow ball with my younger daughter during a vacation in Florida.

Pepsi Soccer Complex
Soccer was an adjunct to my participation in track and field. The coach thought the rigors of constant movement in soccer would take one's mind off of running. During the early 1970s, in small town Minnesota, the game of soccer was foreign. Running while moving a ball between players took more coordination than I could ever hope to develop. Besides, I was a shot-put and discus thrower, not a sprinter! 

Sheyenne National Grasslands

Other than the occasional time on a tennis court, I am out of practice. My activity time is still high. I find being outdoors and moving to be both enjoyable and meaningful. Without large number of participants to field a team, as well as the lack of consistency in my daily schedule I have embraced more solitary activities. Biking, hiking, and snowshoeing can be enjoyed solo. I am not opposed to team activities. I have enjoyed more freedom to be in motion when I am by myself and on my own time frame.

One thing I have never been good at nor have I practiced very often is the simple action of saying, "no." There is a connection in my mind between being available and being acceptable to others. Over decades of pastoral ministry the needs of family and self have been set aside due to not practicing, "no." As much as this has been on my mind, as much as I tell myself to practice in order to grow internally stronger, I am very hesitant to practice. It is not that my body will hurt, but the more powerful and controlling self-image will be bruised and battered. Recently I opted to help another pastor by covering two afternoon worship services in a skilled care facility. The services are not difficult. I receive compensation for leading the services. The residents and staff appreciate my presence.  However, those benefits no longer cover the cost to my being. 

Could it be that I realize my time is limited? Could it be that I finally acknowledge my acceptability is more an internal issue than an external one? Is it the acceptance that I am replaceable? There are many other people who can and will take over when I gain the strength to say, "no." The harsh truth is not only am I out of practice, but the concept is still foreign to my being. I recognize my rudimentary understanding and appreciation for that two letter word. At times I marvel at those who use it well. Other times I become angry because I believe when others say, "no" the responsibility upon myself becomes greater. This is a misguided perception that only I can solve. 

It is time to practice! I look forward to the healthy benefits it will provide!

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