The Australian Open started Sunday night.
It also began a two week period of my life where I live on little sleep, lots of coffee and anticipation of another late night of watching tennis.
To say I’m obsessed is clearly an understatement.
It never fails when tennis is on and a tournament is going, I think of my previous life as an aspiring tennis professional. By professional, I mean I played in high school, had ambitions to play in college and played a few USTA tournaments.
Highlight of my career? Being a part of the second-place men’s doubles team in one of those USTA tournaments. (Confession: Only two teams entered the doubles draw).
Nevertheless, I ponder what could’ve have been and relish my glory days as a tennis player. This time around, though, I needed some blog material and my wife encouraged me to talk about tennis. Sad fact, if I really did that, none of you would keep reading.
So, I’ll talk about what tennis has taught me over the years. And, while there’s plenty of cliches or heartwarming things I could share, I’ll focus on one:
If you get hit in the balls, you can’t just stay down. You have to get up to finish the match.
I’ll never forget it. I was playing a guy from Charlotte Catholic. They were a team made of those special kind of arrogant people that play independent sports (ie: people just like me). I was playing as the no. 3 seed for our team. I was almost guaranteed to lose. Its these kind of matches I loved, because I could throw all caution to the wind and slug it out with the guy across the net.
The second service game of the first set for the guy from Charlotte Catholic came. Being that I was throwing all caution to the wind, I straddled the baseline when I was returning serve. I wanted to hit the ball on the rise, and attack first in the rally…even if the serve was coming over 100mph towards me.
In a genius tennis strategy, the guy served straight into my body. I would have done the same thing.
When he did so, I didn’t get to hit the ball on the rise and attack first. Instead, the ball attacked me and hit me on the rise…if you know what I mean.
Men, you’ll know the pain that I want to describe, but you also know there’s no such words for it. Getting hit in the man-bits at over 100mph by a tennis ball will drop any man to his knees. I was no different.
A knot was in my throat and I felt like throwing up. Two things subdued the pain: laying on my back and walking around. I wanted some time to catch my breath, subdue my anger and perhaps, I wanted to be a little dramatic. So naturally, I went with the former.
My coach had seen what happened and came over. I thought surely he’d offer words of encouragement from man-to-man. But instead he said something like “Get your ass up. This happens to everyone. Finish the match. You’ll be fine.”
At the time, that was the exact wrong thing to be said. But, looking back on it…I think he was right.
We can choose to put our pain on display for everyone to see. We can choose to stay down and be a little dramatic. We can choose to sit in our anger. But, life is still happening to us.
Sometimes life isn’t easy. Sometimes its hard to comprehend why bad things happen to good people.
But then again, sometimes we’re too prideful to take a step back and think more strategic than the Devil…so we get hit in the balls of life.
When that happens, we must remember that the match is still going. Life must still be lived. We are not alone in our pain. The Great Coach is beckoning us to endure and press on.
I didn’t win the match that day. But I learned the all-important lesson of “When you get hit in the balls, you still have to finish the match.”
Life doesn’t stop just because bad things happen or we endure painful experiences. Fortunately, Jesus is urging us onward and vows to finish the match with us.