Our youngest granddaughter, now 13, is fully engaged in the world of teeny-girl volleyball. She started this journey last year and got on a team that was destined to lose. Cheryl and I tried to catch as many of her games as possible. It was painful.
By the way, do you know how much it costs to have a kid play in a recreational league like that?? Don’t ask. If you have kids you already know. If you don’t have kids, you don’t want to know, trust me. This is not to mention the incredible sacrifice of time and travel involved on the part of everyone involved. Good grief!
I’ll say this – she kept at it. She went out for volleyball in her middle school and just kept at it. She … just … kept … at … it. She worked and sweated and then worked some more. And, in the process – she got better. A whole lot better.
This year we have been hearing reports that her new team is doing quite well. After teaching my class Saturday, I drive to Independence where the weekend tournament is being held to join Cheryl and the rest of the clan. Walking through the door I find myself in a world dedicated to 13-year-old girls in shorts slapping vollyballs over nets. As an astute student of culture I realize that I am entering a foreign place and I don’t speak the language or know how to navigate the culture. But, despite my ignorance, I easily see that the redheaded granddaughter’s team is on a roll. This is a LOT more fun to watch than last year! I am gratified to see that she is now one of the stars on her team – a very fine little volleyball player.
Having cruised through their bracket, we wait as the remaining two teams in the opposite bracket decide who will move on to the finals. The stage is set, and the final contest begins. They are a bit off in the first set and lose by three to an equally worthy opponent. Finding their groove again, they roll over their opponent in the following set. The third and final set begins and it isn’t looking good. At one point “our” team trails by eight, looking a bit listless and with fear in their eyes.
Suddenly, the tide turns. Elongated thirteen-year-old limbs are flying around the court as fast as discarded chicken wing bones in the next day’s Super Bowl parties. Finding new strenght and determination, these girls keep on chipping away at the deficit. Catching up, the score goes wildly back and forth, but in the end, to everyone’s delight and astonishment, they pull it out! What an amazing comeback! Grandparents automatically swell up with pride at moments like this – you know, DNA actually skips a generation and goes directly to the grandkids. WE won that game by virtue of being grandparents!
The next day is Super Bowl Sunday. Whoopie!! I must confess losing interest in the Super Bowl about the last time the Chiefs were in serious contention. Let’s see … that was right about the time I started shaving. Lenny Dawson was the QB and today he is older than Moses.
Super Bowl Sunday at our house is like this – we turn on the TV to see some of the commercials. By halftime I fall asleep from boredom and miss the best commercials. Except for occassional wardrobe malfunctions, the halftime shows don’t do anything for me. Yeah, come over to our house next year. You’ll have a blast and catch up on your sleep.
Yesterday, however, I got a call sometime during the first half and just before I fell asleep. It was from the one we call our Chinese granddaughter. “Grandpa, I was wondering if I could pick up M and come by and borrow your TV.” She’s from the Bay area and has a vested interest in the game. What she doesn’t have is a TV.
The atmosphere changes in the Adams household. Instantly, she is fully engaged in the game, screaming at the TV and inching ever closer to the screen. How could I fall asleep? This is hilarious and even much better than the commercials. I am VERY entertained.
Then, something unexpected happens – a football game breaks out. Then the lights just flat out break. It’s all just flat-out amazing! I couldn’t care less who wins, but I am suddenly sucked in to the drama of the game. The Ravens had been in danger of putting me to sleep, but San Fran comes roaring back with a passion. I am looking at behemoth burly beasts, man-mountains of beef crashing into each other a full speed – but memories of skinny, ackward thirteen-year-old girls flash across my mind. Could San Francisco really pull off a comeback and win like yesterday’s volleyball game? It comes down to the final play, the final second and, and, and … well, no. There will be no miracle comeback this time. The Chinese granddaughter lies silent on the carpet – out for the count.
Some you win, some you lose. Magical comebacks don’t always happen. But, sometimes they do.
With these impressions in my mind the next day I am reading Genesis 49 and 50. Jacob is coming to the end of his sorry life. He is a schemer, manipulator, liar, deceiver and just about any other negative name you could spit up, earning every one of them. Yeah, yeah, he has a couple of God encounters along the way, walking down the aisle at revival meetings – but it never seems to “take.”
However, something happens toward the end of his life. God finally comes down and deals with him on a physical level (Genesis 32). As a result of this “hands on” encounter with God, Jacob will walk with a limp for the rest of his life. His life begins – sloooowly – to change. This is one case where gimpy is good. For the first time he begins to show flashes of living up to the name God gave him earlier – Israel, prince with God.
Slowly at first, Israel begins to pick up yardage in big chunks. By the end of his life he is blessing his sons under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, worshiping with heart and leaning on his cane as a constant reminder of his own weakness and God’s strength (Hebrews 11:21). What a magical comback! Yay, Jacob! Yay, God!
Do you ever feel down for the count? Do you ever feel that you can’t win for losing? Are you ever tempted just to walk off the field before the final buzzer? Do you ever feel embarassed for some of your stupid choices, or that you just can’t seem to string some wins together? Do you ever have a season like the Kansas City Chiefs this past year? In all seriousness, do you ever deeply grieve for your life because it is not turning out the way you had imagined in your youthful zeal and idealism? Do you ever?
Well, maybe it’s time for a magical comeback of your own! You CAN finish strong just like Jacob. While no one can deny his years of being a loser, Jacob’s number is eventually retired and he even ends up in the Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11). That’s how we now remember him – he finished strong and left life as a winner on his way to the Hall of Fame.
The very neat thing about the race of faith that we run is that we have no competition but ourselves. It’s not like someone wins and somebody else has to lose. No, not everyone has a magical comeback in life, but that only depends on the choices we make and not by being beat by the other team. You CAN enjoy a
magical supernatural comeback. It’s your choice.