Sometimes Mission is not so Far Afield
I made a wrong turn on my way to a training session. Darn that GPS, it proclaims “you have arrived!” just as you pass the turn. Thankfully, just up the road there was a big church parking lot where I could make a U-turn. On exiting the lot, I was greeted by this sign:
I let the car idle for a moment as I considered this. There, in my training shorts, shoes and sport shirt, was I really entering the mission field?
I have never actually been on a mission trip. Never stood with a group before the congregation to send me off to a distant land to build a church, or to a neighboring state that has experienced devastation, nor even to the inner city to lend a hand to those living in poverty. Could it be that right here, right now, with my little training business in my own community, I was knee deep in mission? Maybe I didn’t need to go on a trip after all.
I wasn’t exactly “called” to Fit2Finish. Not in a voice-from-heaven-that-insisted-I-go way. It’s been more of a constant contact kind of thing. On this day, I was meeting up with Emily, a 16 year old basketball player, who’d had ACL reconstructive surgery in February. We had already had several sessions, but this time we were meeting on the basketball court of a middle school near her home. She had been cleared to return to play, but it would be my first time to meet her father, Roy, who was bringing her. He wasn’t so sure she was ready. What’s so “missional” about this?
I have walked this road before, and it can get rocky in the space between a sporting kid delighted to have permission to return to play and the father who loves them so much it would absolutely kill them to see their child injured again. (Incidentally, the mothers tend to do much better; it’s more often the fathers who wince at the prospect.)
I put Emily through her paces. She runs, jumps, dribbles, and shoots. She stops and starts, pivots and hesitates, and drives the lane for a lay-up. Roy and I both shag balls as we watch, and I make a point to join him under the basket to hear what he’s thinking. His reflective sunglasses prevent my reading his face for cues.
“What do you see?” I ask him. After all, he is the expert. He has been watching this kid since she toddled with a ball.
“How does it feel?” I ask Emily when she jogs over. After all, it’s her body. She knows it inside and out.
I haven’t said a word. Not offered any observations, made any corrections, agreed or disagreed with any statements made. I have just created the circumstance to watch and listen, as father and daughter hear each other out to discover their common ground.
On this sunny day in August, with a cool breeze blowing across the playground, things go smoothly. It’s not always like this. Sometimes there are undertones and misgivings, ushered in with angst and fear. Parents don’t trust their kids. Kids are frustrated with their parents. Parents want to wait. Kids are in a hurry. Parents have expectations. Kids want to meet expectations but they can’t. Sometimes, it gets ugly.
I can’t ever be sure how things will go, but it seems where I’m meant to be. “You are now entering the mission field.” It’s not exactly a “sharing the faith” kind of thing, but I am convinced that somehow, when I put on those training sneakers, I am standing on holy ground.
Funny, as I prepare to shuttle my own 18 year old off to Virginia Tech this week, expanding the space between us and leaving the proverbial “empty nest,” I will especially miss her poignant observations about life. Often, just a few words captioning a drawing in a memory dusted off. In our cleaning out and packing, she has pulled out a book she made as a first grader. On the ‘Meet My Mom’ page, she has written, “(My mom) really likes to tech pepol to stresh.”
I do like to teach people to stretch. Guess I have been at this longer than I thought.
Teaching people to stretch… their limbs, their minds, their lives, toward their goals, their dreams, and toward each other. Now THAT is a mission field. Amazing how those wrong turns remind us.