Yesterday I blew it. I made a mistake. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but let’s just say it had to do with banking and paying bills, two things that are not my gift. I was being pretty hard on myself for a while, and then I remembered a lesson I learned a year ago.
For several weeks last summer, I spent far too much time watching the Olympics. I cheered at victories, got teary over the back-stories, and yelled mature things like “we were robbed!” at officials who remained oblivious to my complaints.
After it was over, I made a decision. I will not watch Olympic gymnastic competitions any more. I know this statement will not only incur the wrath of the gymnastic community, but will probably receive a warning from the IOC. I, however, will hold firmly to my decision.
Let me explain.
Over and over again, it was the same story. Someone performed an almost flawless routine, landing with the tiniest of extra steps. Their coaches put their faces in their hands, the commentators said things like “there goes the gold,” their mothers begin to cry, and the athletes had this blank, stunned stare. All those years of training and sacrifice, and nothing to show for it but shame.
“It’s just a little step folks,” I screamed at the television. “For goodness sakes people! They were hurling themselves through the air like a human boomerang! Can’t they just do a little bunny hop? Just one teeny mistake?”
The answer from the collective judges was a resounding “NO” as the young loser gymnasts were herded into windowless vans and driven straight to a camp in Siberia to spend the rest of their days ruminating upon their losses and sipping cold Yak broth. OK, I’ll admit to being a little dramatic.
But here’s my problem. The discomfort I felt watching the gymnastic competition (and the perfection required) comes from the fact that my life and faith are anything but perfect. Not only do I rarely stick my “landings,” I trip and fall, missing my mark more times than not. I falter and wobble and blow it on a regular basis. Somehow I get through and finish my routine, but it’s rarely pretty and never perfect. Never.
Believe me, I’ve had my bouts with perfectionism. For years I thought I could do it right, and those who missed their mark, well, they should be pitied. But I’m weary of that kind of pressure and judgment. The longer I live, the less I think God is asking that of me. Rather, he asks me to invite him into the stumbles and bobbles, to lean on him precisely because I can’t do it right. And in the midst of it, what he does ask of me is to love. And love is always messy.
This is why my new sport of choice is volleyball. Beach volleyball. (At my age, watching not playing!) The players dive for the ball, get sand in their teeth and down their shorts. The volleyballs hit the net and often go out of bounds. The players fumble a lot of shots, while making quite a few of them too.
Better yet, they have someone next to them on the court, who’s always looking out for them, intent on setting them up to make a play and look good. They slap each other on the back when they make a mistake and high five when they do well. And a team can lose a whole set and come back to win. How great is that?
So that’s why I’m going to be a fan of beach volleyball. It speaks to me of the journey I’m on and comforts me at the same time. And while I’m at it, I think I’ll watch baseball too.
In that game, everyone is just rooting for you to make it safely home.