He comes down the stairs clad in his tennis sweatshirt and warm-up pants. Uniform on. Hair gelled. Teeth brushed. His official “tennis” shoes tied tightly. It’s championship day, and his seed looks as best it can.
I fry his egg and make his sandwich. Fill his water bottle and place his favorites in a cooler. We are ready for a day of tennis.
I watch him sit quietly at the table. We engage in small talk, but I think he’s nervous. He’s a serious child who wants to please and do well. Don’t we all?
As his momma, I want him to win. Not so I can post pictures on Facebook and take credit for his superior tennis skills (I have zero athletic ability), but because I love this boy and want him to be confident and successful.
I say a prayer as I follow him out the door. Lord, be near today.
We arrive at the courts, sing the National Anthem, and head to Court 4.
Again, silent prayers for calm nerves and accurate shots. I know, you may say, it’s middle school tennis. That’s a bit shallow. To which I’d say: I am his MOMMA. Momma’s cheer on and pray for their littles regardless of the situation and score.
Yet, as I say a prayer and take a deep breath on his behalf, I am aware of those around me. A long time friend pulls for his son on my left. Another friend coaches the boy playing my son. I see my son’s opponent’s mom sitting to my far right, folding her hands and staring intently at the courts. I notice her stand a bit later.
I watch a dad hug his kid and give him a tickle after a tough loss. I listen to the parents of the bottom #8 seed stand behind me and say in a most encouraging tone…oh man, thought he had that one. Good try! That was a tough one. (Too many sweet moments to mention!)
As I survey the 10 courts with parents and grandparents and coaches lining the fences, I am reminded that so many kids are well-loved and supported. God also reminds me: every person here is pulling for someone. Many prayers are going up for calm nerves and accurate shots. Captain Obvious, huh?
But do we always remember this? That we’re all in this together?
While I fully realize and say often “this is middle school tennis and no one will remember in two years who won these matches,” something inside us wants our people to come out on top. And that’s ok, normal, well and good – especially in middle school tennis (as long as we act civil and kind;)
But, what about in life? After the days of youth sports pass, is that always our goal? To come out on top at the expense of another? Does someone have to lose for me to win? Does some one have to be less than for me to be more?
Because that’s where I saw and heard Jesus today. My son doesn’t have to win anything or be great at anything to be loved by God. I don’t have to focus on making Sarah great again. My kiddos don’t need the highest grades or best serve or front row spot. That’s not the goal of this life. The goal of this life is to love God and love others. Sure we run the race, persevere, learn, and come out better than we were. But ultimately, we have to stay focused on the real race. The real reason we walk this earth: To make Jesus famous. And when we are focused on loving our neighbors, not besting them, we see His kingdom come to earth as it is in Heaven.