Friday Deep- I Never Watch Alone

Posted on November 1, 2009

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When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to practice sports by myself.  The neighbors called me “the boy with the ball.”  In the summer, it was throwing a baseball against the side of the house.  I’d turn every grounder into a diving catch, pretending I was Ryne Sandberg.  After that it was shooting baskets in the driveway, imagining myself as any University of Louisville player I could remember for that particular year, draining corner three’s and driving the lane.  Years later, when I picked up soccer, that mindset stuck with me, only now I was scoring golazos as I juggled in my apartment and tried not to break every CD I owned.

Imagination is a powerful thing.  It creates and it fills.  As a boy I rarely just played a sport- in my mind I was always so-and-so doing such-and-such.  The imagination created the opportunity to be more.  And as I grew older and missed my chances to play sports at a high level, it began to fill the gaps, as I imagined what the feeling would have been like.  It’s the gift of imagination.

But the flip side of that is that now, as an adult, I never watch sports alone.  When I’m honest, I know that I’m always joined by the new friends my imagination has  nurtured, like Jealousy and Self-Pity.  I can never watch Clint Dempsey, a man my own age, play a sport professionally that I wish I could and not feel the twinge of envy beneath the cheers.  I find myself asking questions like “Why does he get that life?  Why not me?”  His skills seem to dwarf mine- my life in contrast seems so boring, so vanilla.  I work an office job.  No crowds clamor for my every move.  There are no do-or-die, dare to be great moments in a cubicle.  “What did I do wrong?”, I think.

In his book ‘Run With The Horses’, Eugene Peterson looks at the life of the prophet Jeremiah.  Peterson says this:  “God’s creative genius is endless.  He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass producing copies.  Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before.”

My jealousy has no place in the face of this truth.  My self-pity can’t stand this light.  If there’s one hope that I can’t live without, it’s the hope that Peterson’s statement is true- my life is unique canvas that God paints on.  The reason I don’t play pro soccer is that because the Master Painter has his own picture in mind, one that doesn’t involve roaring crowds or a personal goal scoring dance, and that I will be happier if I let him hold the brush.

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