Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Game of Errors

I have never liked to fail.  At anything.  To not achieve something for which I was working always incited great disappointment.  For many years, I based my identity and value in effort and works performed.  Therefore, failure was equivalent to a loss of self, or at the very least, a diminishing of my worth.  Through my experience as a coach, my understanding of this has changed and I have recognized this line of thinking as incorrect.

With the inaugural varsity volleyball season, loss is evident in the scorebook.  We are currently 3 – 9.  On numbers alone, there are more losses than victories.  On effort alone, we’ve battled some of the best teams point for point, and lost.  The temptation I face as a coach is to judge my abilities against these numbers.  The false misconception is to conclude that I am not an effective leader.  However, when I run the numbers on positive enthusiasm, hard work, and togetherness of my team, we have a winning record.  This will never appear in any scorebook, yet I have to remind myself constantly of the greater purpose for which we are playing.

Standing in front of nine women at the end of a tough loss, it takes every effort of my will to remind them that volleyball is a game of errors.  If not, there would never be an opportunity for victory.   The post-game pep talk becomes the occasion to remind my team that there is indeed beauty in loss.  It is a greater gift to have tried for something and lost, than to have given only a minimum effort and still experience the same result.  I see through the hard work and determination of my high school athletes the realization that the greatest happiness can only come through suffering.  I am struck by the heart each displays when facing a tough competitor.  And I am moved during our pre-game prayer when my captains thank God for the opportunity to play for Him.  Even with 100 more losses, I am confident we have already won.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Art of Living

In the past week, I’ve been prompted on more than three occasions to reconsider the ways in which I have been caring for myself.  Let’s be honest; this tends more towards ‘lack’ of care.  In seven days, I have been struck by a group of parents, a podcast, and a challenge from a dear friend.  I have been moved to make a change.

During the first monthly Parent House meeting, I had the privilege of sharing faith, as well as life experiences, with a group of McGivney parents.  We looked at the reasonable and evidential claim that Jesus is who He said He was – God, Himself.  This lead to provoking questions about whether this Truth affected our personal realities.  One of the parents responded that in a recent job transition with an increased work load and responsibility, it was helpful to recite the mantra, “It’s God’s mission, not my mission.”  This was helpful for me.  In my own experience, I often struggle to allow Jesus to be Lord of all that I do, because I desire to be in control.

This week’s podcast from a group of friends was on the topic of learning how to live.  The claim was that it takes a lifetime to really learn the art of living.  We struggle as human beings to identify the essentials, the priorities, or the non-negotiables in the midst of to-do lists, responsibilities, and self-induced busyness.  Ultimately, it is my relationship with Christ that is foundational to everything I do.  And the duration of that relationship depends on the investment in my health and wellbeing.  Both of these factors prompted me to reconsider the time I spend in prayer and the number of hours I sleep.

I was primed to have the following conversation with a dear friend, who challenged me to put into action the desire to take better care of myself and to grow in my relationship with Jesus.  Reasonably, I could not weigh any of the responsibilities at work against the health of my mind, body, and soul.  So, my desire became a reality.  I committed to a bedtime this week with a built-in wakeup in order to pray.  I am currently celebrating the victory of day 2!  The journey through life is indeed long.  But I am determined to learn how to live it well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Saints of Madison County

On the recent canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta, I am struck by the monumental impact of a humble soul.  St. Teresa lived a life of inspirational virtue and yet her mission was very simple.  She loved the poorest of the poor, caring for each man, woman, and child lifted from the street as if she was caring for Jesus Himself.  The reason for her capacity to love came from her prayer of two Holy Hours a day – one before the day’s work, and one again at its close.  I am moved by the witness of this meek and beautiful woman.  I desire to serve as she did.  Perhaps I can go on mission to another country, to serve the poor and grow in charity.  Yet almost as soon as my heart’s desire meets reason, I quickly realize that I am not called to be St. Teresa of Calcutta.

I am struck by St. Teresa’s example because of her presence to the present.  She responded wholeheartedly, totally, to the circumstances in which she was living.  She didn’t go out to seek the poor of world because it was a good idea or a noble thing to do.  She responded to Christ’s personal invitation to serve Him, in the poor.  I often look elsewhere for opportunities to serve, with a misguided desire for recognition.  I am reminded that sainthood is the vocation to which we have all been called.  I may never reach official canonization by the Catholic Church.  But by God’s grace and through my cooperation with His Will, my heart is perfected in charity.  Saints are those who have been perfected in love.  What is love, but to will the good of the other, to place that good ahead of my own.  While I am not called to be St. Teresa of Calcutta, it is possible to become a saint.  It is possible in my circumstances to love, totally, those who are right in front of me.