Tonight at the table tennis club, I played two teenage guys who haven’t been coming to the club very long. I beat Ben the first time we played, back in October. But he improved very rapidly, and the next time we played, he beat me in a close match. Tonight, he beat me three straight. He zoomed right by me. That’s what the club does. You play guys much better than yourself, learn from them, and improve. Most guys, when they begin coming, experience a burst of quick improvement. That’s what happened with Ben.
Another kid has just started coming. He’s very scrappy, hard to play against. I beat him Saturday, 3 out of 5. But tonight, he beat me 3 out of 5. I’ve been playing much longer. But he’s full of energy, never tires, and has the confidence of youth. He doesn’t realize he’s not supposed to be able to beat me.
This really stinks. Especially since I remember, once upon a time, being just like them.
I went out for tennis in high school, my junior year. I started out as the number 9 player on the junior varsity team, and only the top 8 play in a match. In the first match of the season, I got to play someone from the other school after he had already played his real match. He was the other team’s number 3 player, and he beat me 8-0 (we played a single 8-game set back then). But I improved quickly. I constantly watched the varsity guys to see how they stroked the ball, recognizing that “form” is everything. And it paid off. I quickly climbed up the team rankings, knocking off player after player. And a couple weeks later, when we played that same team again, I was the number one player on our JV team. And in a nail-biter, I beat the other team’s number 1 player. And I just realized I’ve started four sentences in this paragraph with “and.”
The next week, I was moved up to varsity, where we won the conference championship and placed third in Central California. The next year, another championship year, I was the team captain.
Okay, I’m bragging. Reliving glory days. Mid-life nostalgia. But it’s to make a point. I know what it feels like to be able to improve very rapidly. But after you do that, you hit a wall, where improvement becomes very difficult. That happened to me in tennis. And that’s where I am right now in ping pong. I watch these young whippersnappers (at age 49, I qualify to refer to other people as whippersnappers), how they take hold of the sport and zoom right by me in ability. I can stroke the ball better. I have loads more experience. But they beat me. And it’s grossly unfair. God knows it, but he won’t do anything about it.
Churches sometimes grow rapidly, then hit a wall where continued growth is very difficult. New Christians grow spiritually, then experience a period where living the Christian life is suddenly difficult…and it stays that way for the rest of their lives. “Normal” life is hard. And hard is good. It means you put effort into it. If I’m gonna beat these young whippersnappers–and I know I can–it’ll take more than will power. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to pray about it, asking God to grant me victory over these immature novices who need humbling. But if I keep losing, I may resort to prayer. Maybe even throw in some fasting. I really really want to beat these guys.Leave a comment