Friday, May 21, 2010

Kickball Questing…

In April, I went on my biannual retreat with a group of young clergy. You might recall that every such retreat, we spend one our days not talking. Having introverted tendencies as I do, I look forward to this Day of Silence. I pray, meditate, catch up on reading. And I play an afternoon game of kickball. In silence.

Well, this past retreat, our usual Kickball Organizer was gone, and his leadership mantle (unexpectedly) fell to me. So the morning Silence began, I had to make impromptu plans to find a kickball store, purchase said kickball, advertise our game sufficiently, all while keeping my trap shut. Daunting, but doable. And after breakfast, I left the retreat center praying the fates would deliver me unto my athletic destination.

Turns out, my “Kickball Search” was tougher than I’d expected. I’d tried a pharmacy ¾ a mile away. No kickball. There was a grocery store nearby. Alas, no kickball. Still, I was on a major thoroughfare, so I kept waking. Found a Dollar Store- no kickball. Another pharmacy- no kickball. A Children’s FunWorld- you guessed it. Over an hour passed, walking in the hot TX sun, and I felt an urgent temptation to cut losses. But I knew that Silent Kickball would happen only if I made good on my search. So I kept questing, vowing to try one more store.

Target! That’s right, within three minutes, gloriously red concentric circles appeared, and I felt vindicated for sticking to my search. “Surely, Target will have a kickball. Target has everything!”

Except a kickball, it turns out- not in Toys or Sports. I was heartbroken. But there were soccer balls, I noticed…so a choice loomed. I’d begun my quest expecting one thing (a kickball), and I’d kept pursuing that one thing despite opportunities along the way to settle. But now, at my journey’s presumed end, I could a) Give up, accepting that we weren’t destined for Silent Kickball this retreat, b) Grit my teeth and search for another store, convinced my original goal was what our group needed, or c) Settle for a soccer ball, which wasn’t exactly what I’d set out for, but might do just fine. I chose c).

And it was better than I’d hoped for! After all, I’ve played soccer my entire life, so I kick soccer balls MUCH better than kickballs. I was awesome that afternoon’s game. Even if I do so say so myself…

But before that, as I silently returned to the retreat center with our soccer ball, I began thinking of this ‘quest’ as a metaphor for life with God, and life together with God’s people. All Christians, in various ways, ‘quest after God’ (Matt. 7:7), right? And we want not only to find God, but to discern whatever mission God has for us. As we do this, though, I wonder how often we let our expectations or hopes for where that quest will end up guide our steps, rather than, say, God’s Spirit or hopes. I wonder if ever we expect to ‘find’ God’s mission or God’s character within too limited a set of parameters. We imagine ‘being called’ to something we’ve seen work for others. And sometimes we’re dead-on with those expectations, right?! After all, we’ve been on this quest-after-God for some time now.

But is it possible that sometimes we’ve wanted only a kickball, when God’s got this soccer ball waiting for us? Is it possible we’ve searched for God and took all the right turns, overcome difficulties, didn’t compromise for all the right reasons, but our expected destination was different than what God’s prepared for us? So we’ve been slow to recognize that? Maybe, maybe not. But it seems possible. After all, remember the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matt. 25:31-46)? God’s good at showing up in unexpected places.

No answers this week; only that hypothesized metaphor. Let me know if this describes something in your life, or for our church. Or if you’d change the idea in some important way. In any case, may kickballs and soccer balls litter your path this week. And may you kick them a LOOOONG way!

Grace and Peace,

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