on being brave by playing tennis

“I am just not athletic.”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. It’s quite simple, really: I grew up as the only daughter with two younger brothers, and any sport we attempted, they were always better at than me. Always as in, exponentially so. My response? Being the perfectionist that I am, I decided to focus on my areas of success, namely reading books and chatting with friends and getting good grades at school. My parents wanted me to be well-rounded, so they forced encouraged me to take tennis lessons from the time I was around 10-years-old. It’s the only sport that I have actually practiced with any sort of consistency throughout my life. Until about 15 years ago, that is, when I began working and then went to grad school and now with young kids, I’m lucky if I’m able to fit in a weekly yoga class. [sidebar: I’ve decided that for a workout to be motivating, it has to be intrinsically fun, social, or relaxing. Yoga and Zumba classes are ideal.]

tennisNeedless to say, I’m a bit rusty on any tennis skills I had acquired. Yet I also still own a tennis racket, and I’ve assumed it’s like riding a bike. You can pick it back up any old time, right? So when two friends invited me to practice with them this week, I jumped at the opportunity. That was yesterday. And it was hard. It was hard to lob balls over the fence into the neighboring courts time after time. It was hard to whiff more than a couple good serves. It was hard to feel so out of practice when it was something I used to do decently. It was hard to be doing so in public. With friends. ! To feel out of my element. It was hard to feel achy at the end of playing because my weak ankle began rebelling.

But “we can do hard things,” says Glennon Melton (of Momastery and Carry On, Warrior fame). And in fact, anything worth doing will be hard at some point. Hard as in it will require effort, and you’ll want to quit, and you’ll have to overcome your natural resistance to anything more difficult than picking up the remote control or browsing Facebook on your smartphone.

My friend who invited me to play tennis knows this about me, and she sent me an email today saying, “Thanks for being brave!” It meant the world, and it made me wonder whether we should be doing this more for each other. To affirm your bravery for showing up when it feels easier to “call in sick” (on your job, or motherhood, or life in general, or the marriage, or the church small group). You showed up, didn’t you? And so let’s affirm that in one another.

For the truth is that there is no other way to love one another than by practicing to love (which will inherently be messy and imperfect). And we should be quick to affirm even the smallest movements of others towards love (as they turn away from self-obsession, self-pity, self-promotion, etc.). If you want practical help on how, two books are my favorites: “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” by Tim Keller [my review here] and “Love Walked Among Us” by Paul Miller.

What about you? What have you done lately that was brave for you, though perhaps not recognized as such by the world at large? I’d love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “on being brave by playing tennis

  1. Interesting perspective and I completely agree: “we should be quick to affirm even the smallest movements of others towards love (as they turn away from self-obsession, self-pity, self-promotion, etc.)” Those things that turn as away from ourselves and to others are a step in the right direction – godly love! And, as you said, we also have to ‘practice’ love. It’s certainly not in our nature:-) Thanks for sharing these insights!

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