I know the last time I wrote about my enthusiasm for the game that is pickleball, I spoke only of the pleasures of the game, never mentioning any pitfalls or perils. Well, it may be a well kept secret, but there are both perils and pitfalls to this game that seemed so innocuous to me when I was first introduced to it.
I mean no one considers pickleball an extreme sport like hang gliding or snow boarding. I was told it is popular in the retirement villages in Florida. If it’s safe enough for seniors, that was endorsement enough for me. That is, until the day I received a purple thumb from pickleball. No, that is not an award for excellence of play, nor is it something good like having a green thumb.
During a game, the pickleball hit my thumb instead of my paddle. It was a glancing blow, seemingly harmless at the time except for the initial sharp sting upon contact. In truth, it was the result of a forceful spin put on the ball by my opponent, unbeknownst to me. I continued to play, finishing the game. It wasn’t until later that I realized my thumb was swollen, sore and turning a deep shade of purple. It remained in this state of painful purpleness for several days.
My thumb also became numb and painfully tingly for a short time. This gave me great empathy for a friend whom I knew was experiencing this same kind of pain on a much greater scale, over a much longer period of time, with his whole arm. I had a whole new appreciation for my thumb when I didn’t have the use of it as usual. That whole opposable appendage thing is really crucial to daily life.
But I digress. So I returned to the game of pickleball in due time, the whole purple thumb thing forgotten when my thumb was no longer purple to remind me of this pitfall. And then it hit me. I mean literally, it hit me. Yes, the pickleball hit me square (or round) full force in the eye. I never saw it coming. (well obviously) It spun off my paddle right into my eye. This was the result of the forceful spin put on the ball by my opponent. (I’ve got to start playing with nicer or maybe less skilled people) This eye incident definitely counts as a peril.
My eye is currently red from the broken blood vessels and purple around the eye socket, but I can see just fine! This is not a complaint but a praise of thankfulness. “Oh God forgive me when I whine, I have two eyes, the world is mine!” (author unknown) So . . . will I return to the game of pickleball? Maybe I should start wearing goggles when I play? Maybe a helmet? Maybe full body armor? (this is looking a lot like football gear all of a sudden) but I don’t want bruises all over my body.
Will I be so weighed down with all my protective gear that I won’t be able to play the game effectively? This I do know. It is time for a risk/reward analysis. In other words, it is time for me to count the cost! I do this everyday, consciously or unconsciously, for most decisions that I make about how and where I will invest my time, my skills and my money.
Jesus challenged His disciples to count the cost before they decided to follow Him. In Luke 14: 28-30 he said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ ”
I, too, am asked to count the cost before following Jesus. He said in Luke 9:23-25, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” This is some serious risk/reward analysis!
I want to know what I’m signing on for. Jesus makes it pretty clear. In John 15:18 & 20 He told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. . . . No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also.”
Jesus also told them, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20) I’d call that full disclosure.
Jesus has issued the invitation, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
With His invitation He does provide some reassurance, however. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
And along with Jesus’ invitation to take up my cross and follow Him, He reveals the rest of His invitation to me and to you in Matthew 11:28-30, when He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (a heavy wooden cross is lighter than the weight of all my sin, which I’ve been carrying around for years? actually, yes, it’s a great trade)
Seems like everyone I know today says they are weary, stressed and desire rest. Who would have thought that by taking up a heavy wooden cross, I would actually lighten my load and find rest for my soul? But that is exactly what I experience on a daily basis.
All things considered, I will again set foot on a pickleball court, being convinced that the pleasures of the game outweigh its’ pitfalls and its’ perils. (although those who look upon my eye right now might beg to differ)
I will also continue to follow after Jesus, being convinced that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39)
I have His promise in 1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
God’s word also tells me, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
As I count the cost of following Christ, I say along with Paul, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, . . . ” (Philippians 3:8-9)
A missionary once said it best when he stated, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” God’s promises are true. He is faithful to His word. The rewards of taking up my cross and following Jesus far outweigh the risks Jesus told me to expect in this world. I will return to the court, I will continue on the path put before me, following His footsteps.
sincerely, Grace Day