Before I learned that I didn’t care about winning at tennis, I joined a tennis team. My neighbor was playing and she suggested I give it a try. I had no idea what I was signing up for when I joined a women’s tennis team. Women’s tennis teams are not unlike middle school. There is a pecking order, unwritten rules, expectations unique to the culture of the team and a LOT of competition. Tennis, at its core, is not a team sport. Most of the time a team member is vying against her team mates for position on the “ladder”. Once a week during the tennis season, you actually play against another team. Mostly, you’re showing up for practice and sizing up your team mates, looking for vulnerabilities and a chance to climb over top of someone. This required that I buy better tennis outfits. And laces that matched. And sign up for private tennis lessons with the current “in” tennis coach. Perhaps “required” is too strong a word. But back in the day, it FELT like a requirement, because, after all, I was on the TEAM. And part of being on the team is climbing the **** LADDER.
One afternoon I picked Scott, our youngest child at the time, up from preschool and fed him lunch. He loved his nap time, and so I felt no guilt when I tucked him into his bed and headed out for my tennis lesson. Pete was working at home and I poked my head in his office, reminding him of my lesson and Scott’s current status – sleeping like a log. Pete was not happy. He called my tennis lessons the “Doug Poynter (my coach’s name) beneficent fund” and scrunched his face with disapproval when I headed out with my racket and determination to take on the basics of a decent spin serve. I was irritated that he was irritated. Didn’t I have a RIGHT to tennis lessons? What was his problem? If I hadn’t been so defensive about the time and money and commitment I was pouring into tennis, I perhaps would have noticed earlier that I really wasn’t enjoying the game or the preparation as much as I assumed I would when I signed up. If I had been more mature, more skilled at marital conflict, more willing to really listen to Pete, I could have learned a few things about myself – but, alas, I was not mature enough at this point to benefit from his feedback. And to be fair, he wasn’t exactly a pro at giving feedback either. My heart really was not in playing competitive tennis.
I have a very personal theory that when we love God, the desires of our heart absolutely line up with the will of God. Our intuition (which I value), our gut (which is important to listen to), and our best thinking doesn’t always net us insight into the desires of our heart. I suspect that our biggest problem is not that we are always in conflict over God’s desires versus our own, so much as we are clueless as to our true hearts’ desires. When our desires are not lining up with the heart of God, I wonder if it isn’t more about not knowing ourselves (or maybe God) well enough to understand our true authentic desires. We are on a grand adventure of self-discovery. It took some time before I began to understand that Pete’s discomfort with my tennis was a warning sign that I needed to tend to. Pete had a better sense than I did that all this obsessing over spin serves and shoe laces that matched my skirt was not really meshing with my most authentic self – and he was right, although neither of us had the vocabulary or skills to have THAT discussion. Is anyone giving you feedback that you are quickly rejecting? Might it bear more thoughtful consideration?