Isn’t it funny how when anything is going on in pop culture, the Church is so quick to jump on the bandwagon and make it spiritually relevant?
“You can have Olympic sized faith!”
“This Sunday: God’s Olympics! Go for the gold!”
Ohhh, precious believers. We are so good at the Jesus juke.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve played volleyball. It’s always been my favorite sport and as a teen I was a decent player but I quit the high school team because we were terrible and our coach liked to focus on players who ‘had potential’ but never really reached it. Obviously I wasn’t super committed, and these days my body can barely handle jumping out of bed, so my spiking days are long gone.
I haven’t watched a ton of the sport over the last twenty years, but I am a die-hard Olympics volleyball fan. In fact, I’m falling in love with a lot of other sports this year, too, but if the US women’s teams are bumping and spiking, I’ll be planted in front of the TV no matter what.
In my illustrious high school volleyball career, ‘ready position’ meant that my legs were spread out, I was light on my feet, swaying back and forth, ready to move to where the ball called me, and my hands were planted on my knees. We didn’t ever get into strategy or the mechanics of positions or digs etc., we were pretty much focused on simply getting the ball over the net. Ready position looks a lot different today, though.
April Ross’ (US beach volleyball) ready position looks more like she’s actually waiting to receive a gift than a potentially life-changing serve in front of millions of people. She’s got her legs spread, her hands stretched out, and palms up. I’d never seen this position before (again, I’m a lackluster fan at best in the 4 year span between Olympic games), and for some reason it intrigued me.
April Ross is a force to be reckoned with, and her stance seems to set her up for some of the most amazing digs I’ve ever seen. She lunges her body into the sand to save that ball like she’s falling into pit of marshmallows, and then she springs back up, immediately ready to pound it across the net. If I tried that in my current state, I’d be in bed for a week.
I’ve seen the ‘new’ position in many other games as well now, and I realize it’s a whole thing. These players are open to receiving some of the hardest and most difficult serves of their lives. They’re already planning to do whatever it takes to keep that ball from hitting the ground, even if it means throwing themselves across the hard floor, or crunchy sand to do it. I’ve seen players sprint past the court boundaries repeatedly in order to save a play and bump a ball back up to the net.
I have no crafty way to transition this and I think you already know it’s coming, so here’s the Jesus-juke. “Volleyball is very similar to our Christian lives . . .” Bump, set, spike! Okay, never mind. . .
We’ve been served some hard serves over the years. I always jokingly say, “It’s never dull at the Presley house.” But it’s true: there is always something stirring, always something changing, always something pressing in that we need to deal with.
Today is no different. We were served a play this week that we’ve been anticipating, but hoping against for a few months. It’s so staggering that normally I would be curled up in a ball in the corner of my bedroom, bawling and asking God “WHY?” for the gazillionth time. I’m so weary of the ways that God has allowed our family to be stretched and tested. I’m weary of health issues, job issues, relationship problems, and money demands. I basically just want God to leave us alone for a bit. Is that too much to ask? Can we coast for a bit?
I remember about a year ago we were sitting in a leadership meeting with the elders from our church in Austin, and Rocky said, “I feel like things are really good right now. There’s no drama, we are settled, and things are just really good. I’m sure that means that things are about to be shaken up, but . . .”
Oh, if only I could go back in time and clamp my hand over his mouth. “Don’t tempt Him!” I would have whispered.
So, here we are again, back on the court of “Sometimes life doesn’t make sense” and the jump serve that’s just been lobbed our way is going to sting on connection. Its going to require some sacrifice and some bruises in order to get that ball back over the net.
As we’ve been preparing for this play, April Ross’ open-handed ready position has never left my mind; it’s completely changed the way I’m processing things.
Palms up, hands out, these volleyball players are ready to receive. That serve is coming, no matter what, and being in that open handed position, they’re on the defensive, but also ready to receive what’s coming their way, no matter what the cost.
Every time some new play comes in to focus, because there’s never just one and they seem to come one right after another, I now imagine myself on the volleyball court, standing in that new-to-me ready position. I don’t know where the ball is going to go. I don’t know where I’m going to have to run to in order to save it. I don’t know if it’s going to be an easy bump, a slide across the floor, or require the sprint of my life to keep the ball in play, but no matter what, my hands are open, and my arms are out-stretched. I’m ready, and I’m not going to let that ball hit the ground.
The openness that has come into my spirit with this image has helped me tremendously over the past few days. I am weary, but I’m not afraid. I’m bruised but I’m not broken. I’m bewildered, but I’m not giving up. It’s as if I’m saying, just by my stance and position, “Okay, Lord. Hit me with your best shot. I’m in this fight. I’m ready.”
Saying those words out loud is dangerous, but the thing about our match is that the Lord’s plays are designed for our success. He’s not actually trying to defeat us. He’s hitting hard serves because they make us stronger, and because when we have to work to save the ball, it shows us what we’re capable of. It shows us what He is capable of in us. Each time we smash that ball back over the net, we’re proving to ourselves and those around us that we’re still in the game. We’ve not been defeated, and because God is for us, we won’t ever be.