When I was learning to play tennis as a young teenager, I used what most of us did back then, an aluminum racket. These were quite a bit heavier than the various ones you can get rather inexpensively today, like the graphite rackets I bought for our girls. I play with a much better material these days when I do get out to the courts, one I couldn’t have been trusted with in my early days.
Tennis is a solitary game where you almost never get frustrated with anyone other than yourself, though someone like John McEnroe loved to blame his losing on the umpires and linesmen. Probably even the ball boys and girls.
I would do with my frustration what a lot of people have done over the years: take it out on my racket. You should have seen mine back then. Whereas graphite and other materials splinter and crack, aluminum simply bends. I beat my racket far out of its original oval shape into something like a trapezoid, or maybe a rhombus. (I’m not remembering my high school geometry.)
Proverbs 14:17 (ESV)
A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
I like to think of myself as one who is evenly tempered, yet I’ve also seen myself erupt. What lies beneath that churns until it erupts? Isn’t there an impatience with myself and others? Why did I get so angry when I’d miss a shot in tennis? Did I think myself better than I was? It’s the same in music. I get frustrated on the guitar because I can’t get a certain part. Why do I expect that I would? Why do I expect that I should be as good on the guitar as on piano, when I’ve been playing it (and was formally tutored) for 25 years?
I pray that as I grow older that I’ll grow in patience and even temperedness with myself and certainly with others.
Questions I should be asking
Proverbs 15:25 (ESV)
The LORD tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
In my preparation for the financial class I’ve been teaching at my church, I listened to a sermon series of Andy Stanley’s called “Recovery Road,” or something like that. Mostly I liked the series in which he outlined how we as a nation can recover not just financially but spiritually, though he didn’t speak much of repenting despite his use of the oft quoted “If my people humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways … then I will heal their land.”
Could it be that we in America, in spite of how God has blessed us in the past, are not free from God’s judgment of those that oppress the poor? Open your Bible to just about anywhere (in the Old Testament particularly), close your eyes, and put your finger to the text. There’s a good chance you’ll land on something that speaks of God’s ire concerning those that oppress the poor.
How do we participate in oppressing the poor? We’re not aware of it, but we do take part in it. It might be in the fancy coffee I buy from roasters and traders in a system that refuses a fair wage to the farmers in undeveloped nations. Or the cheap clothes I buy sewn by those who labor in a sort of hush-hush slavery system.
Shouldn’t I be asking these questions? Where does my coffee come from? Where do my clothes come from? Is someone being oppressed because of some executive’s greed? Is someone being oppressed because I demand to pay less for clothes? What if I just bought less clothing and paid a higher price, the result of fair wages for those who made them for me.
What does this passage tell me as one who wants to follow Christ, who was an advocate for the poor if there ever was one? I need to ask more questions. I can either live in the house of the proud, which God is sure to tear down, or I can join with the widow, whom God will protect.
Join me next week as I look at the adage that God helps those who help themselves.