1 Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
This is one of those scriptures that just makes it all seem so simple that I wonder why is there such a struggle with our ambitions and goals in life? I get to use my son for this one because he has been going through this as much as me (if not more). Now remember, these are only my observations (and I am his mother), so if I make him sound perfect, he’s NOT! He’s wonderful and he’s God’s gift to me, but he’s 15 in the year 2013 and living during the most selfish generation that we have known. He’s struggling just like me.
He is a tennis player. Absolutely loves the game. If he could quit school and work at tennis 20 hours a day, he would. He’s only been playing for almost 4 years but he has been given the gift of athleticism and strong determination. He also has an obstacle called worry that he is working to overcome.
When he was 5 years old, he had an accident that broke his right leg. It was a spiral fracture just north of his growth plate, so close to it that the local hospital refused to treat him but sent him to the specialists at the nearby teaching hospital. (I have always believed this was God directing his path). He was in a body cast for two weeks and ended up undergoing surgery to pin his femur back together. The pain this kid went through was unbelievable but his stoicism and courage made me a lifetime admirer. He was in kindergarten and out of school for about 3 months. The body cast was the worst part of the ordeal because every time I had to pick him up to move him, his bone shifted and he would scream in pain. He began to worry that he would never heal and he would be deformed or something. He was extremely concerned about his growth plate (why do Dr’s assume that a five year old has no clue what you’re talking about?????) and his father and I had to reassure him that he was going to heal just fine.
This accident was the biggest blessing in his life. It was this time in his young life that he experienced the awesome power of faith in God. He worried about the body cast and the shifting of his bone, but he came through it. Then he worried about the surgery and if he would even wake up, but he did and in two weeks he was putting weight on his leg again. During this time, I was the one who got spend each day with him and we talked a lot. I was not as in tune with God as I would have like to have been, but God is so great He used me anyway. God gave me the words to encourage my son and teach him that faith is something that will grow each time we use it, like a muscle. When we depend on God for our needs, we will always be satisfied and we don’t have to worry.
So, when 3rd grade came along and he wanted to play football, I was not enthused about the prospect, but I knew that if I said no, he would doubt his ability to do anything. So, here we go, the smallest boy in his class with a “weakened” leg (I put that in parentheses because I really don’t believe it’s ever been weak, it actually has a protective coating over it called faith). Yes, they tackle in football at this age and yes, my son seemed to find the bottom of the pile every time. Long story short, he played for a few years, but because he was so small he just didn’t get to play as much as he wanted. He was disappointed but he wasn’t passionate about the sport anyway, so he was okay with not playing. He decided that he wanted to try some baseball instead. This was a short-lived career. He was great at the game but bored with it. So, he moved on to basketball.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am a true fan of basketball. LOVE IT! I coach every game (from my seat in the stands or on my couch). So, when he started to play, I was ecstatic. He played some recreational league ball and I was able to teach him some fundamentals, but he learned the most from his older friends who were excellent athletes. He became a great 3-point shooter and free-throw shooter with good ball-handling skills and coordination. When he got to middle school, he was on the team and happy to be playing. The only problem was, he wasn’t growing as tall as his friends were and didn’t get to play as much because of it. Here comes the worry. He would complain that the coaches were biased and that he didn’t get a chance to prove himself. I tried to encourage him and told him to take advantage of his time on the court but it just wasn’t enough. Mind you, during this time, he had just been introduced to tennis and was learning how to play it, so the wheels were already in motion. By the time he got to high school, he considered playing for the basketball team, but backed out at the last minute. He decided that he wanted to put his time into tennis and work for something there. I was a little disappointed, but I also knew that I have no control over what happens any way, so anguishing over a sport? No way.
Through these years of testing, God began sending me a message that I believe he meant for both me and my son. That was 1 Timothy 6:6.
When he played tennis in middle school, he really didn’t have any tough competition, but when he played individual tournaments through the USTA, he found there was stiff competition and he really needed to work. He won some and lost more, but he had something deep within his heart that told him this was worth the effort. We would often have conversations about if this was what God wanted him to do with his life. I always tried to remind him that God would always provide for him and show him the way as long as he kept his humility and remembered that his gifts were from God alone. He always readily agreed with me and continued to work, but he needed something more. God once again intervened and sent a friend who helped him find new coaching and encouragement. This friend is a few years older than him and has also been a very good example for him (at least in tennis). This kid is the epitomy of determination, showing my son that it is possible to have self-control in the face of adversity and do well. The great thing about this kid is, he has a hard time finding that self-control, so my son can definitely relate. But once he finds it, he goes full force. On the flip side, my son feels like he can influence his friend in a positive way by trying to help him control his anger and mention God every once in a while. I don’t know how often this really comes into the conversation, but even once is quite an accomplishment in this day in age.
Fast forward a year and my son has followed his friend to a new coaching facility and has elevated his tennis even further. During this time, I could sense a change in his personality and I wasn’t sure if I liked it. It was borderline confidence/arrogance. I wanted desperately to confront him with this change but was unsure how to approach it without hitting a brick wall. The one thing I had always told him in the past was that when God has a lesson for us, it usually comes in the form of a setback or problematic situation. I also told him that if he failed to put God first in his life, then he was putting tennis first, which would not get him anywhere and God would not be able to help him. Familiar challenge that I have been dealing with myself. It came to a head when he started talking about how he felt he was coming close to hitting that place in his tennis where he was going to “take off”. His confidence was high and his ability was incredible. Bam! He came home one night from tennis grunting and having a hard time sitting down. He had hurt his back.
We dealt with it at first using anti-inflammatories thinking it was a strained muscle. He improved some, but then he went out and played hard tennis again and came home in even worse pain. Now his dad has extensive medical knowledge, but this didn’t seem to help very much because he automatically assumed he knew what the problem was. We taught him how to do strengthening exercises and stretches to keep his back from getting worse but it wasn’t enough. This rollercoaster kept on for about a month and he was becoming very impatient. He started to worry that his leg injury from 10 years ago was coming back to haunt him. I prayed that God would remind him how his faith was what he needed to overcome this obstacle. I also prayed that God would show him whether his tennis career was God’s will or in idol.
My son and I had a few indepth talks during this time. We talked about putting God first and how we tend to put our worldly desires in front of God when we don’t even mean to. This was when I was coming much closer to the revelation that my purpose is to love God and encourage those around me to love Him as well. That when we have a real relationship with God Almighty, our true BEST friend, we actually can be satisfied with whatever we have in life because we know that this life is temporary. Our eternal life is what we are working towards so if we have a friend in God now, we have a friend for eternity. This is what I tried to explain to my son. This is a hard thing to do because only God gives revelation and plants it into our hearts for our meditation.
I decided to take him to the chiropractor to see if some help could be had without any medication. This kind fellow took radiographs and proceeded to examine my son’s back and neck by hand. He surmised that he has a leg shorter than the other but he was going to do measurements and let us know for sure. For two days, we figured he did have one leg shorter than the other but thought it was the left leg because the right leg probably had rebuilt some calcification and extended it. Okay, we were reaching. Anyway, the chiropractor informed us it was his right hip that was sagging a little but an insert in his shoe should help to balance it all out. Two days after that, he had to play tennis for his high school team and felt pretty good. He continued to go to the chiropractor and get treatments because this is the protocol, but I think more than that, it helped to boost his confidence in the healing process.
Why is all this important? During this stressful time, another scenario was playing out in the high school tennis world. Remember his friend who had been helping him elevate his tennis? Well, he was also on the high school team and they had been playing doubles together for the school. His friend was a senior and was aiming for a state championship in doubles. They had been planning on playing doubles for over a year and then this injury pops up and causes everyone to question whether it’s even possible. His friend was put in the position to choose between my son and another very talented player who happened to also be injured at the time but was able to play and play very well.
This was the perfect opportunity to worry if there ever was one. Thankfully, at least on my part, I had already decided that whatever God wills is perfect and I intend to be thankful for everything, no matter what. The way I saw it (and still do) my boy is here, able to learn and love God. Able to share whatever experiences and revelation God gives to him to others and if he is able to continue playing tennis, then wonderful. If not, then there must be a greater purpose for him. I knew that if his friend didn’t choose him, my son would not be mad. He had told me before that he was playing doubles for his friend, not himself. I had foolishly made the comment that if my son didn’t play doubles, that he would be happy to go for the singles title. After all, he had told me that before, but he wasn’t exactly convincing. I only said it to try to instill some confidence in his friend. I regret it because it didn’t leave me with peace. I asked God for forgiveness and now I’m asking you. I don’t expect you to understand, just go with it, please.
Well, he chose my son, and they started their quest. For the first two weeks, it wasn’t much of a challenge. The conference they are in just doesn’t put as much emphasis on tennis as they do in football or basketball. That’s a dangerous thing because it can cause a player to become over confident and go down in flames. They won the conference title with ease and everyone was talking about a state championship like it was expected. (I really hate that because if anything is going to put pressure on a kid, it’s that kind of talk) The following week, they won the regional tournament, again with ease.
Here we go, on the way to the State tournament the next week. This required us to stay in a hotel because it was so far away. This gave me and my son some time to talk. We were talking about his doubles partner and how we felt he was chosen specifically for this tournament. He said he really wanted his friend to have the championship. Then he said something that made my heart melt with peace. He said something like, “You know, ever since I just gave myself completely to God, I have just known that it’s all okay.” From that moment, I knew that win or lose, we were already going home champions because our dedication to our Lord in Heaven, believing in Jesus Christ our Savior, has elevated us to that status of winning, whether our circumstances look like it or not.
Hence, godliness with contentment is great gain. Thank you God!